When I was a teenager in the late 1990s, I thought I was born in the wrong time. In my mind, I should have been coming of age in the 1960s, the height of the Civil Rights era. I imagined myself as a fierce crusader for the rights of others, on the front lines of the marches and sit-ins to confront white supremacy.
Dear Lord, I was a fool.
Admittedly, that’s pretty common among teenagers. But this was a special kind of foolishness. One that seems especially relevant in this rather terrible time in our nation’s history. This past weekend, a white supremacist plowed a car into a group of anti-racist protestors. There are three people dead (one protester and two police officers in a related accident) and many others in the hospital.
To me, this incident highlights how ignorant I was back then and yet how common my views still are. My naivety illustrates everything about why white parents need to talk to their kids about white supremacy. (By which I don’t mean just the literal Nazis, but also the cultural aspect of valuing white people and white culture above all others.)
“Mommy is going to let the people in charge know that we need to respect all people,” I told my son on the morning of the Women’s March. While I’ve been politically active for a long time, he never really knew about it. Because I so rarely miss weekend time with the kids, I wanted to let him know what I was doing and why it was important. As I and two of friends gathered snacks and pinned posters on our jackets, seeing my kids reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.
Explaining what’s going on is even more important if you’re bringing your kids along to a political event. In the case of the People’s Climate March, I knew that I had a responsibility to explain to Sprout why he was there.
From explaining why I’ve missed dinner to testify to our City Council to marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, here’s what I’ve learned about introducing kids to activism:
So proud of my munchkin.
“You’re not going to bring the kids to homeless shelters are you?” asked my husband, several years before we had kids. “Probably. We need to teach them how to help people.” He most likely rolled his eyes. But now after being married to me for a decade and living in the Age of Trump, he understands. Which is why all four of us were out in the sweaty heat this past Saturday walking in the Washington D.C. People’s Climate March.
Privilege is a word tossed around a lot these days, often in the phrase “Check your…” But even though the words are new, the idea is something I’ve known about for a long time. My mom emphasized how I was lucky to have what I had. Sure, my parents and I worked hard, but what we had wasn’t through hard work alone. I hope to pass that knowledge onto my kids.
Knowing how damn lucky and I my kids are motivates so much of my activism. I got the chance to write about it for Mamalode recently, in a piece called My Privilege Protects Me and My Sons From So Much – This is the Least I Can Do.
Here’s the first two paragraphs:
“President Obama, I know you have two daughters. I know you love them. But I want you to know that I don’t know if I’ll have kids. That’s because I don’t know if they’ll have clean water to drink,” said Eryn Wise, a 26-year-old organizer of the movement against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. As she stared out at the crowd gathered in front of the White House, I gasped just a little. Of course, I know this is a calculation women make every day – whether the world they would bring their child into is good enough. And too often, that answer is no. But to hear a young woman say it in person made me breathe in just a little more sharply.
That’s because it’s a question I’ve never had to face.
Read the rest at Mamalode!
When I was pregnant, I imagined what life might be like if I had a little girl. I envisioned teaching her to stand up for herself, buying her dresses with science symbols, letting her get dirty, and being an example of a strong woman for her. I wasn’t going to stereotype her or allow anyone else to, thank you very much. In short, I considered how to teach her to be a feminist.
But I turned out to have two sons.
The girls are missing.
Children’s literature is remarkably devoid of female main characters. As a recent video illustrates so drastically, in a study of more than 500 children’s books, 25% had zero female characters. Even though there are loads of animals that could easily be female, they’re almost always identified as male.
Even when there are female characters, they’re often relegated to a stereotypical role, like the stick-in-the-mud, the mom, or “the vain one.” In children’s media, just under 20% of female characters had jobs or specific aspirations.
Just like in the broader popular culture, boys in picture books get to go on adventures, solve problems, and save the day. These stories teach our children that either girls don’t get to do fun things or have to stay in society’s prescribed roles.
In contrast, both little girls and boys need female characters in books! While little girls need to see themselves represented, boys need need to know that the story isn’t always about them – and that it’s a good thing.
Bringing down the patriarchy can start at your child’s bookshelf. Here are some of my family’s favorite books featuring girls as main characters. In addition, a number of these books feature girls of color, which are even harder to find.
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.
It’s often hard to know what we can do in response to national policy, like the recent ban on immigration and refugees from several predominantly Muslim countries. Between the seemingly prejudiced way those countries were chosen, the terrible implementation, and the many people suffering as a result, it’s easy to feel helpless.
But I hope to make helping a little easier. While I almost never run giveaways, I want to raise awareness on this issue. To help parents talk to kids about refugees, I’m giving away one book from this list of picture books about refugees. The specific book will be the winner’s choice, depending on their child’s age and interests. I’ll also make a donation of school supplies to the International Rescue Committee in the winner’s name.
To win, you just need to like my Facebook page as well as “like” the specific Facebook post about the contest. Next Friday, February 10, I’ll randomly select one person to receive the package.
This is not a sponsored giveaway – I’m just doing it because I think it’s important. Immigration is a huge part of my family story. I want other families to have the same opportunities that my ancestors did. Teaching our children how refugees are like them and providing refugee kids with tools to help them heal is one small way to do so. Resistance takes a lot of forms, but I want all of mine to be driven by love.
For more on my thoughts on refugees and immigrants, read my post Refugees and Other Families Looking for a Better Life.
“Tell us what democracy looks like – this is what democracy looks like!” chanted by countless voices rang through the National Mall. I and two of my friends were in the middle of the Women’s March on Washington yesterday, along with about a million other people. From creative signs to the chants, the crowd was seriously pissed off. At the same time, there was a serious sense of solidarity and dare I say – hope.
As Dave Engledow, the photographer of the World’s Best Father set of photos, says, it felt like the scene in The Grinch Stole Christmas when all of the Whos in Whoville sing together despite the Grinch trying to ruin everything.
Maybe democracy doesn’t come from a store – perhaps democracy means just a little bit more!
A few of my highlights from the day:
Standing on the National Mall in the February cold, I stomped my feet and tried to ignore how sore my lower back felt. Watching the stage, I strained to listen to the speakers, from Silicon Valley billionaires to Native American activists. I was at one of the biggest climate change protests ever, focused on defeating the Keystone XL oil pipeline. While it attracted 12,000 people, it’s unlikely that many were in the same situation as I was: five months pregnant.
Despite the cold and a serious lack of bathrooms, I marched in hopes of shifting the tide against climate change. Now, with the election of Donald Trump for president and the Republican domination of Congress, I find it more important than ever before to be an activist mom.