Volunteer, friend, son

With my mom as a newly elected state representative, my life has changed significantly.

Nov. 2, 2010, was the night my life officially changed forever. That night, it was announced that my mom, Kelly Meigs, was elected as the new state representative for Kansas’ 17th District. This was when the changes that had already begun to consume my life really began to coalesce.

It began nearly four and a half months earlier. My mom called us to a family meeting, which meant what she had to tell us had to be big. That night in late May was when my mom announced to our family her plan to run for state representative; however, it was not only an announcement. It was also a plea for help from my two younger sisters, my little brother and me. It would not be until many weeks later that it became evident to us just how much work running a political campaign would be.

For those unfamiliar with a political campaign, it can be similar to door-to-door sales. Just as salesmen walk from house to house advertising, so, too, do volunteers on a campaign. However, instead of advertising products or services, campaign volunteers advertise for a politician. Political campaigns also use yard signs, parades and many other tools in order to gain name recognition.

As the son of a politician, I became the ultimate campaign volunteer. Whether it was making literature packets to hand out, putting together signs, walking in a parade or attending a Sunday night meeting, I became an integral part of the campaign operation. As time went on, the work load given to me became increasingly large. I became director of sign operations for the general election campaign. This meant coordinating sign construction, creating databases of what yards needed signs and organizing volunteers to actually get the signs into the yards. It also became my duty to coordinate the efforts of fellow NW seniors as they volunteered for government class projects. These were my campaign duties; my household job list grew along with it.

I had grown used to having my mom at home to clean clothes, cook meals and do other “mom” stuff. Now, with my mom’s focus on the campaign, it became my responsibility to make sure that my clothes were cleaned. By summer’s end, I had the process down to a science. Load exactly “x” number of clothes depending on the type of clothes, carefully measure the detergent, dry for exactly one hour, fold the clothes and repeat five times. This got me through a few weeks’ worth of laundry, and multiplied by three siblings meant 20 loads total. Meals had to be cooked for me and my three younger siblings. This meant planning the meals, spending about an hour each night preparing the food followed by cleaning after each meal. In addition, the house had to be kept tidy, which was particularly important because all Sunday-night campaign meetings were held in the living room of our house. Vacuuming and picking up after everyone became instinctive for me. My summer quickly turned into a lesson in parenting which was something I was completely unfamiliar with.

Playing this role isn’t something I was able to give up when the campaign ended. Since my mom was inaugurated, there have been nights where she has had to stay overnight in Topeka. It was one thing when she was gone campaigning until 6 p.m., but now she sometimes does not even come home. She is gone from the time I wake up at 6:30 a.m. and she’s not yet home when I go to bed around 11 p.m. For some, it may not be a big deal, but for me it is huge. I have gone from my mom always being at home with me to sometimes not seeing her for days at a time. I realize that this is something I will just have to get used to. I had imagined that this summer would be spent preparing for college next fall. When it became adapting to my mom as a politician, I merely accepted the fact that my life would be different. Since my mom has taken office, the changes I have been forced to accept have taught me a valuable lesson about life. Change is something you should always be ready for because it can come without warning.

Being the son of a politician has also left me in the public eye. I have to be careful about what I say via text, Facebook or in person. People I don’t even know are watching me for even a slight misstep, for something to hold against my mom. However, not all was lost in my social life. Although I did have to be more careful, I also gained many new contacts and friends from the experience. Through these friends I was able to intern for the Sam Brownback for Governor campaign, which not only makes my college applications appealing, but got me an A in my government class for the assignment.

I like to think of myself as a person who can accept change and make the most of it. I see being the child of a politician simply as another challenge in my life and one I am willing to work to overcome. If there is one thing I have gained from my experiences as the child of a politician, it is that my life will always be changing. It’s how I choose to deal with these changes that defines who I am as a person.

Josh Meigs