Why I Bring My Child to Political Marches
Am I using my kid as a political pawn?
Do I consider that a bad thing?
This debate was brought up this past week as I shared images of my husband, 3-year-old son, my friends, and me at the 3rd Annual Women's March on January 19th, 2019 in downtown Santa Rosa. I shared the same images to both my Instagram account and Facebook page (and the latter received comments from friends, likes, hearts, and one angry face from a cousin with whom I’m not actually Facebook friends with)... Instagram was a completely different experience. I added hashtags like #WomensMarch, #ImpeachTheMF, and #ProudLiberal because, frankly…I believe in them. The first image in my Instagram carousel of photos was of my toddler and me smiling as I held his sign that said “Trump Gives Toddlers a Bad Name.”
Here Come the Trolls
About an hour after I shared my Instagram post, I received comments from people I didn’t know saying I was a bad mother, a horrible person, and that I am a leftist idiot. One guy who was following me (which wasn’t reciprocated) simply said, “Adios.” Along with several long-winded comments with plenty of spelling errors that talked about everything from “Trump hasn’t done anything wrong” to “white woman don’t care about minorities – they are just there for the Instagram pictures.”
Some of the comments I responded to (I know, I know…I shouldn’t bother), and some I just deleted and blocked the account from which they came. I also shared the link to my Facebook page asking if I had “made it as a liberal because I had trolls trying to bring me down.” That brought even more comments (from friends backing me up) to my post, and now it is the second most commented on Instagram post in my history of being on the platform. First was merely a question about cilantro which I talked about in my Instagram hack post. It seems people have strong opinions about both Trump, and cilantro (I am anti-both).
Click the pic to see some of the non-deleted comments on my Instagram page…
Even though the people (or Russian bots) commenting on my Instagram post were hateful, I did want to look up sane reasons why someone wouldn’t want to bring their kid to a march, so I did some research. There are logical issues of bringing kids to a crowded area, there are safety issues because you never know what type of nut-job might hurt people in a crowd. And there are people that don’t want to push their beliefs on their kids.
These were all very valid points. I found an article from Today’s Parent about a woman’s experience when she was a child, going to protests she disagrees with as an adult. I also still believe that by focusing on the good in the world, I have a duty to bring my kid to political protests.
Focus on Love, Not Hate
I remember seeing some of the ads for Trump back in 2016, before the election. With my marketing knowledge, I thought that love and positivity would always win over hate. Ahhh, how naïve I was. In addition to the Russian hacking of social media during the election, I didn't realize how much of a motivator fear and hate truly were, and are.
And no matter what anyone else is doing, normally I would be an advocate for focusing on what YOU are marching FOR versus what you’re against. But, this is not a normal time. We have someone in the White House throwing a full-on tantrum about something he had two years to focus on (aka the racist WALL), and now that he finally has an opposition with the Democratic majority in Congress, he is not taking it well.
And, honestly IMO, everybody calling him a clown or a toddler gives those groups a bad name. Toddlers can sometimes be reasoned with. Or, at least put in a timeout.
So I wrote that on a sign. Most people, at least the people I'm friends with, thought it was hilarious. But obviously others didn't like it, which actually did make me pause and remember that even in the next election cycle, “when they go low, we go high.”
Why I Bring My Son to a Political March: His Future
This was the third year I brought my son to the Women’s March. The first year, he was a year and a few months old, sitting happily in his stroller; last year he was able to run around with my husband while I took pictures from the stage in Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa; this year the march happened to be at the same time as his nap, and so we went for one speech and to show our support of friends who were in charge of putting everything together.
I want him to grow up with empathy for others, a desire to learn, and an understanding that the political process isn’t black-and-white – that it does take activism and people joining together to let those running our government hear what we value.
And of course, there are issues that this current government is for and/or against that directly impact my family, like bullies, a Green New Deal (because we need a progressive approach to combat the biggest issues the world faces), climate change, gun violence, and healthcare.
With Rye’s Cystic Fibrosis, medicine is what literally keeps him alive. Back in the ‘50s, children with CF didn’t live past five, but with all of the advances in medical science, he’s going to lead a long and healthy life.
Why I March: My Family
Marching is personal because the thought of everything that’s going on in this administration literally makes me feel sick to my stomach. I have gone through every stage of grief since waking up on November 9th, 2016 (the day after the election) and realizing that someone I NEVER thought could have been elected to be president, was… I have been angry, sad, in denial, bargaining (come on, Mueller), and everything in between since then. I march to remind the world that women’s issues still have a ways to go, especially with this administration.
It’s also because I want to fight for those who don’t have a chance to be there. Government employees who are forced to work without their paychecks (because of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history), immigrants trying to pursue a better life for their families, and kids like Ryeson who deserve to live in a world in which they don’t have to fear a shooting taking place while they’re at school.
It's Important to Continue the Fight, Because It's So Much More Than Just Marching Once or Twice a Year.
Making sure to raise our children with empathy and kindness.
Donating (time or money) to organizations you believe in, the organizations that have their boots on the ground fighting EVERY DAY for causes you believe in.
Calling your representatives, and either thanking them for fighting for the values you believe in, or letting them know why you want them to vote differently.
Staying informed and nicely calling out those who share fake news. (Shaming anyone online usually has the opposite effect of what you are trying to accomplish.)
Being more political in local government (something I’ve never done before and look forward to doing more).
Listening. I am not advocating to listen to your racist uncle about why we need a wall to “keep out illegals,” but to listen to marginalized groups for ideas on how you can help them. Don’t just bulldoze over them when they have genuine concerns about something like the Women's March.
Don’t Feed the Trolls. You Should Know Better by Now.
As I continued to respond to the trolling comments on my Instagram page, I realized that as much as Trump has brought out the absolute worst in some people, having him in office has also brought out the best in even more. People who stand up for each other, people who have had the chance to be an even greater ally to women, LGBTQ individuals, minorities, etc., people who take matters into their own hands when their administration fails them. And that is a world I like being a part of.