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I have really mixed feelings about whether kids belong at
protests or not. I'm truly on the fence enough that during last month's
March Against Monsanto, I just couldn't decide whether or not to bring my
littles or not so we went to the beach instead... and now I'm kind of kicking
myself. The thing is, I've had major hangups about this since before I even became
a mom, but now, more than ever, I feel that standing up for my beliefs to
secure a peaceful, healthy world for future generations is all the more
What's keeping me from protesting family-style, then? Well,
let's start with an issue people feel pretty strongly about, myself included.
I'm all for reproductive rights and, being fresh out of Texas, I've seen how
necessary it is for people (especially women) to make themselves heard when
those rights are being stripped away. But would I bring my kids to a rally?
I recently rocked the "Where Babies Come From"
conversation with my five-year-old, but definitely don't think he's anywhere
near ready for a discussion about circumstances in which a
pregnancy might not be carried to term. It simply wouldn't be appropriate for
me tote him along to a pro-choice event. Same goes for the pro-life side. In
fact, images of people with their kids at abortion-related protests, in
particular, have always struck me as pretty distasteful—whichever side they're
on. Little kids don't, and shouldn't, have opinions about reproductive politics.
Their presence at these kinds of protests is exploitative; whatever parents think it might bring to the
table—"Look, my kids agree with me?" Vs. "See, I don't hate
babies?"— they're using their kids as pawns instead of treating them
like people. This is weird and not okay.
On a less principled and more practical note, bringing kids
to events as charged as many protests are seems potentially unsafe. Standing up
for your beliefs is awesome and important, but you wouldn't need to protest if
someone out there (probably several someones) didn't vehemently disagree with
you. And while most protests are peaceful and problem-free, what if some psycho
showed up and committed a violent act while your kids were there? Sure, random
acts of violence can happen anywhere and you can't live your life in fear, but bringing
kids to a dedicated space for heated debate? This gives me pause.
And some of the changes I hope to see in the world —or some of the existing things I hope to see defended and protected—have everything to do with having kids in the first place.
And what about bigots? I'm not sure I want my kids
witnessing the kind of negativity, hatefulness, homophobia or xenophobia that
some grown adults at protests display. Whatever you want to teach your kids, that's on you. I want my kids to grow up as optimistic, kind
and compassionate people who make a positive difference in the world in their
own unique and genuine ways. They don't need to know, just yet, what they're up
against in terms of existing social injustices, polarizing belief systems, and poorly
On the other hand, I really feel like there's nothing like
leading and teaching by example, and I want my kids to know that if we believe
in something strongly, we should go and do something real about it. Protesting
is a powerful form of peaceful political engagement with a long history of
making important change. And some of the changes I hope to see in the world —or some of the existing things I hope to see defended and protected—have everything
to do with having kids in the first place.
Kids clearly have a place at some types
of protests, right? Nurse-ins don't work without babies. And, while their
presence is less fundamental to protests about, say, education reform, parental
medical choice or environmental issues, these are topics that directly impact
children's lives and futures (they're also topics I'm totally comfortable
discussing with my littles), so maybe kids have a real place at these kinds of
events. But then again… maybe not? As I said, I'm torn. And we didn't end
up making it to that march.