Fatherly Stuff: 5 Lessons My Kids Can Learn From the Government Shutdown

Oct 15, 2013

5 Lessons My Kids Can Learn From the Government Shutdown

Whelp, America, it was nice knowing you. We're a little over two weeks into a government shutdown and if the President, senate and congress don't get their act together, we’ll be leaping head first off of the dreaded fiscal cliff in less than 24 hours. When that clock runs out, the US will be unable to pay any of its bills that allow our country to function normally.  I can only imagine that the landscape of our country will be transformed into something out of “Mad Max”. 

mad max

But hold on; don’t get fitted for your leather outfit just yet.  As an eternal optimist, despite how dire the situation may seem, I think there might be at the very least a sliver of a silver lining. Resourceful parents can make the most out of the shutdown by using it as a unique learning opportunity for their children to teach them about some of life’s biggest lessons . Here are the five that I came up with: 

1) Always Play Nice with Others, Even If They Share Different Opinions 

Being the middle child of 5 kids, I am certainly no stranger to a little sibling conflict. Be it a difference of age, opinion or taste in TV show, we often found ourselves in a bit of a power struggle that was often resolved by either our parents or whomever could beat up the other.  Now that I am a parent of two young boys, I am fully aware that I will be caught in the middle of the same clashes of my childhood and it will be my job to teach them how to sit down and rationally workout their differences, or else face the consequences.   Mr. President, members of the Senate/Congress, are you all listening? If not, I have a chair that is facing a corner in my house with each of your names on it.

2) TV/Social Can Distort the Truth
You literally can’t turn on the TV without hearing about the government shutdown. That isn’t to say that an issue of this magnitude doesn’t deserve media attention.  However, between Twitter hashtags, to doomsday clocks counting down to “total destruction”, to the ominous music that plays at the start of each news piece; it’s pretty obvious that most media outlets are capitalizing on this political gridlock in order to capture ratings. I really don’t blame them for doing this; they are businesses after all and their profits are directly related to how many eyes see their pieces.  However, with that being said, I think that being able to distinguish between “rating grabbers” from “real news” pieces  is a skill that should be developed at an early age. You want to teach your children to look at the news with a critical mind so they aren’t easily swayed based on whatever direction the wind is blowing.  

3) Being a “Big Boy/Girl” is About Making Hard Choices
I’ve listened to a lot of commentary from members of the senate, congress, the house majority/minority leaders regarding their take on the shutdown. One of the most interesting observations I’ve made was the fact that of all the excuses and finger pointing to the other side, not one person is holding themselves accountable for the cause of this deadlock. It almost seems as though each side is content with blaming the other, thinking that’s good enough for the countless Americans who are being deprived of services because of their failure to negotiate. I’m waiting for someone to step up and- here’s a novel idea- actually put the needs of the American people before their own political agendas and be willing to do what it takes to come to a compromise, simply because that’s that government is supposed to do. When that elected official appears, I will point to that person and say to my kids, “You see that (elected official)? Now, HE/SHE is a hero and that is someone who you should what to be like when you grow up”. Until that day comes, I will continue to remain silent.

4) A Little Fiscal Responsibility Can Go a Long Way
Why is the US in this predicament in the first place? Putting political biases aside, the facts are clear: the country routinely spends significantly more than it has funds available. That may be a oversimplifying an issue that is complex, but that's basically what happened. While a nation has vastly more obligations than a family, I think the shutdown can still be seen as a cautionary tale of what happens when someone lives beyond their means for far too long. Planning, implementing and sticking to a budget are crucial skills that can be taught to kids at the earliest of ages that will serve them well throughout their lives.

5) Despite How Bad it looks, Democracy Does Work
As crazy as it sounds, everything that is happening is not evidence democracy is faulty, but proof it actually works.  If this were a dictatorship, the POTUS would have absolute, unquestioned power to do whatever he felt like. However, there are branches of the government that have the power to prevent certain policies from taking form if they do not agree with them. This, ladies and gentleman is called a system of checks and balances and it is playing out right before our eyes. Although,  I’m pretty sure that a nation-wide shutdown and potential default probably wasn’t what our forefathers envisioned when they included those fail safes. All of the unnecessary drama would be enough to make some people want to give up on government, indeed based on what I’ve seen on some of my social media feeds, many people already have. One day when my kids are old enough to understand this trying part of our history, I will explain to them that throughout history, all great governments go through defining moments that eventually shapes their evolution and progress. We will be able to look back on this troubling period with the benefit of hindsight and see how our country has learned from that time and progressed to the even greater country that we are today (fingers crossed!)

So, what will happen if our distinguished members on the hill fail to reach an agreement by the time the clock runs out? I honestly have no idea, but I shudder to think of the possibilities. The only thing that I’m certain of is that I, like most Americans, will still have a family to raise, no matter what they decide. Government compromise or not, my kids will still expect me to put food on the table, to put clothes on their backs and to answer those unanswerable questions. All I know is that I will continue to do all three …and then some. 

Question: Have you learned anything from the US Government Shutdown?

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