Walking in a sea of people towards the ballroom, I felt the weight of a long-sought goal coming to fruition. My brain spun on the fact that nine months later, I would be able to vote. It was February of 2012. I had lived in this country since 1979 when I came from Colombia as a seven-year-old girl. In my 40th year I was finally becoming a US citizen, and in that moment as a mother, as a mental health professional, and as a parenting educator, I understood that I was finally going to be given the right, the privilege, and the responsibility of voting. I have never taken for granted the gift I was given.
My children and my clients need me to vote my conscience so I can choose elected leaders that see their needs and support their communities. For parents and for caregivers, voting is a responsibility. Parents often sit across from me worried, anxious and concerned about the well-being of their children. They wonder with me if the decisions they are making for their children’s education, discipline and social emotional health will benefit the future of their children. However, they rarely wonder how the larger societal rules and systems may or may not be hampering their child’s development, mental health, and future successes. I hold those pieces for them. I bring them up often. The success of the parenting journey from the child’s birth to the time they leave home for college is intertwined with their elected leaders locally, statewide, and federally. Voting can guarantee that those who are making the laws and granting the funding to important programs that support families make the choices that match a parent’s values, goals, and needs for their children and their families.
These decisions our elected leaders make are critical, because the first 1000 days of a child’s life create lifelong patterns for a citizen’s experience.  The first 1000 days are counted from pregnancy to a child’s second year. That short period of time creates patterns in the brain and in the body that can live with the child for a lifetime. Access to pre- and post- natal medical care, health insurance, nutrition, high-quality childcare, and education are the responsibility of both the parents and our legislature. When parents give up their right and responsibility to vote, legislators get placed into positions of power that make decisions on these basic needs for their families and children. In the state of Florida, enrollment for the voluntary pre-kindergarten for 4 year olds had close to 75% enrollment by the end of 2017. A very high percentage compared to other states, but the funding per student was one of the lowest in the nation due to legislators lowering the funding from the state budget every year since 2010.  When we don’t fund our children’s needs we give up on investing in our future.
On November 2012, I walked proudly into my voting booth and marked my ballot, as I have done ever since on all election days. I know that in that voting booth I am using my voice, my values, and my education to choose the local, state, and federal leaders that could help my children, my clients, and my community. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. We are intertwined as a community in many ways. Social justice and social change lives in our homes within the building blocks and development of our children. We must vote to make sure that our children are going to be welcomed into a society that will support, love and honor them as much as we do. Voting is one of many parenting tasks. In my list of musts it is near the top. I hope you will take on the responsibility and honor your right.
Visit dos.myflorida.com/elections for times, locations, and what forms of identification you need to bring with you.
1,000 Days (2017) Why 1,000 Days? http://www.thousanddays.org/the-issue/why-1000-days/ (accessed November 2017).Google Scholar