A few days ago we claimed to be sick of the whole darnthing. We didn't want another debate, another ad or another poll.

Now we can't talk about anything else. In the grocery checkout line,total strangers debate the fine points of the Electoral College.

Business meetings include political preambles. Parents and children sitat the dinner table, searching for understanding of our presidentiallimbo.

It's as if the entire country is observing a mental snow day,suspending normal activities in the face of one giant snowdrift. Diggingout could take days or weeks.

But as we wait for the commentators and pundits to finally succumbto laryngitis and the political system to go where no system has gonebefore, we still have to deal with our families. And perhaps one of themost important aspects of this whole situation is what we tell the kids.

My husband, the American studies major in college, views this likethe fall of the Berlin Wall. He continues to remind our children thatthey are observers during a point in history that may claim an entirechapter in future textbooks. He sees the broadest historicalsignificance of the election. He imagines a constitutional amendment toalter the electoral system.

I, on the other hand, have identified with one little lady in PalmBeach, Fla., who got all dressed up, went out to vote and, by gum, wantsthat vote counted. I can get all worked up on behalf of that one woman.

We both share our views openly with our teen-agers. But what wedon't talk about is anything that casts a cynical view of the politicalprocess.

Whatever the outcome of this election, we want our children tobelieve that the process is fair and the system is adaptable to the willof the people. We want them to know that every vote is sacred. We wantthem to count the days until they can vote, and we hope they will alwaysconsider it a privilege. We want our children to understand there may bequirks and anomalies, but the bigger picture is amazingly harmonious.

Should our children be out of town or overseas during an election,we want them to always remember to request an absentee ballot. And whenthey receive a sample ballot, we want them to study it carefully.

However this election is determined, we want our children to be madewide-eyed by the glory of democracy instead of jaundiced by humanfrailty. We want them to tell their own children about way back at theturn of the century when they saw once and for all how important everylast vote can be. And we want them to always remember the faces ofindividuals who are anguished at the thought that their votes were notcounted correctly.

There's nothing we can do to influence the final decision in thiselection. But what we can do is discuss this process in a way thatencourages our children to participate in the future.

Our system is not perfect. We know this more than we ever didbefore. But our system is truly amazing. Perhaps our children will beinvolved in fine-tuning it or changing it in the future. But whateverthe case, we want them to understand how important it is for them to beinvolved.