When Dancing with Toddlers is a Political Act

Photo:  Man with a guitar in front of a mural and a kid behind him dancing. Text: "When Dancing with Toddlers is a Political Act / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

In these troubled times, it’s easy to ask, “What can I possibly do as a mom / dad?” This past weekend, my family attended one rocking answer to that question.

Welcoming immigrants and refugees to America is one of my core political values. More than one of my family stories revolves around immigration and I’m a better person for knowing the many immigrants in my life. I strongly believe in providing opportunities for people who just want to build a better life for their children.

So when I saw that the Takoma Parents Action Coalition  was putting on a “Toddler Dance Party” to benefit the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition, I knew this event was our jam.

At the door, we were greeted by smiling volunteers, squeezy fruit snacks and kids spilling out the door. It was held in The Electric Maid, a quirky community space decorated with a giant nature mural and Earth flag on the back wall.

Photo: Cardboard sign written in multi-colored marker reading "Yup George Soros Paid Me to Rally with Stickers and Cheerios"

Our first stop was a card-making station, where children could draw greetings to welcome new immigrants. “Remember how I told you about how my grandma came from another country? And how a lot of your classmates’ mommies and daddies came from other countries?” I said to Sprout. “We’re writing cards to kids coming to the U.S.!” He thought about it for a moment and then grabbed a card. With a quick application of brown crayon, he scribbled one of his “we have no clue what this is, but he seems to know” pictures. I would have asked him to describe it, but it was loud and he was talking softly. Fortunately, my caption of “You are welcome here!” seemed appropriate. Unfortunately, he picked orange crayon to write it in, making it almost illegible. We tried our best.

Regardless of the final product, I really liked that the organizers found a way to connect the kids attending the event with the kids served by the event. It would have been easy to just make it a fundraiser, especially because it can be difficult to explain the plight of refugee and deported families. The craft was a great way for parents to open up that conversation and actually engage in service.

Photo: Curly-haired man wearing a hat in a plaid shirt playing an African drum.

Soon, the organizer announced something that was literally music to Sprout’s ears – a drum circle. If there’s something that boy loves besides trains, it’s drums. In the parking lot behind the building, kids gathered around in the cold. In the middle was a curly-haired dude with a djembe, a waist-high African drum. He distributed a variety of homemade and improvised instruments, from shakers made out of toilet paper rolls to buckets. After a few songs, the drummer noted that not everyone had an instrument and requested the kids made sure everyone had a chance to use one. Every kid willingly handed over their instrument. Kids really do understand fairness much better than we give them credit for. We then paraded around the parking lot, walking, clapping, and making music together. It epitomized both the most stereotypical hippie activity ever and the magical chaos of kids banging on things.

Once the drum player wrapped up, a kids Zoomba teacher took over. Zoomba has never interested me because the idea of following precise dance moves in the context of a cardiovascular workout seems poised to hit all of my insecurities about exercise. But as I danced with my son, all of my concerns about looking ridiculous disappeared. It was just me and Sprout and a whole lot of fun.

While the activities were great, the best part of the event was that it embodied the key to social change: community-building. Systems don’t change unless individuals work together to envision and develop new ones. Resistance is essential – but so is creation. Teaching your children to respect and embrace all people in all of their beautiful diversity is a truly radical act.

For more on living politically with small children, check out The Challenge and Beauty of Being an Activist Mom and What Elmo Can Teach Us About Dealing with Donald Trump.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook

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