Joco Opinion

Sending email encouraging college kids to absentee vote felt right

Dozens of people queued up in the lower level of Union Station in 2016 to vote absentee before a general election.
Dozens of people queued up in the lower level of Union Station in 2016 to vote absentee before a general election. File photo

It felt a little wrong, but I had given it a lot of thought and mentally weighed the pros and cons, conceptualized alternative methods and seriously contemplated not doing it at all.

Over and over I asked myself, “What will this teach them?” and when I landed on the answer — it felt right; it was the right thing to do.

So I did it.

I sent the email to my away-at-college kids:

Here’s the link to VOTINGABSENTEE.ORG for information about getting an absentee ballot. If you print it out and mail it, here’s the address to send it to.

That’s my version of being a helicopter parent and I’ll own that. I’ll also own one of my key parenting mottoes: Independence is the goal.

Every time I want to do something for them that they can do for themselves?

“Independence is the goal.”

Every time that I want to repeat a directive, direction or responsibility?

“Independence is the goal.”

Every time that I know they’re safe, but I also know that they know better?

“Independence is the goal.”

Sometimes, as a parent, I shouldn’t listen to myself. I should get involved. I should make sure that they have the tools, examples and guidance to ultimately do things themselves.

I can, and do, take away my 13-year-old’s cell phone, pile the vegetables on his dinner plate and re-re-re-insist he wears something warmer on cold days. I can, and do, nag my college kids to get a flu shot. In the big picture, I want all of our kids to learn to do things for themselves, but I don’t usually hover around them while they do. Maybe this situation was less “helicopter parenting” and more “follow-up parenting.”

They need to vote, it’s important. They also need to eat well, to not stay out too late and not skip classes, but there isn’t anything we, their parents, can or should do about that. It’s on them. We can send them all the laundry detergent we want, but our son can still decide to not clean his sheets all semester. We can buy the full meal plan, but our daughter can choose to eat only baked potatoes for a whole week. They should already have those tools from the 18 years they lived with my husband and me. How they use them is their choice and the consequences are their responsibility.

But this? This is bigger than them. Plus, it was a link to an informational website. Sending links is the new newspaper clipping, right?

I didn’t fill it out for them.

I didn’t bribe, insist or demand that they fill it out.

I won’t tell them how to vote and I won’t follow-up.

All I did was give them the tools to learn how to do it on their own.

It was an email equivalent of a care package, except instead of cookies and new socks, it was a care package that makes our country work the way it’s supposed to...and that only happens if they vote.

What did I want it to teach them?

How to vote with an absentee ballot.

That there are resources available for things that they know they should do but might not know the steps of how to do them.

It will reinforce the lesson I hoped they learned from a childhood spent going to the polls with me and the celebration we had the first time they voted.

It will teach them that we might not be hovering over them every day, micromanaging their decisions and trying to mold them into a mini-us, but we’re here as another resource for things that are as common, and important, like doing their part for our country.

Susan Vollenweider is a Kansas City based writer and podcaster. To listen to the women’s history or history-based media recap podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit or