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Bringing My Kids To A Protest May Not Be A Good Idea, But It’s An Important One

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Would it be crazy to bring 3 kids to a protest rally by myself? I asked myself that question over the weekend. And then I asked the internet. I found some great how-to pieces that involve a lot of the same tips I followed when we went to Disney World. (Write your phone number on their arms. Bring snacks. Plan potty breaks.)

I don’t need to write a how-to guide. There are good ones out there, written by far more experienced folks.

I also found some stuff questioning whether it’s manipulative to bring children to a protest — if it brainwashes them. Disclosure: I “brainwash” my kids about a lot of things. Wild stuff, like “we don’t hit” and “no vegetables, no dessert.” I have no qualms about also “brainwashing” them about the importance of showing up.

I only recently learned that myself, and I’m excited to share and live it with them.

This is not a treatise on the morality of bringing your own offspring to an event that reflects your values. Plenty of those also exist.

What I wanted to know, and what I had trouble finding, was would I be overwhelmed when a temper tantrum coincided with a diaper blowout and tween angst amid a crowd of 25,000 people? Would the children protest the protest? Would I end up carrying 180-plus pounds of angry humans away from the crowd while they pulled my hair with their little hands?

Here’s the answer I came to:

I herded my 3 kids to Boston on Sunday to protest the President’s immigration ban. It was short notice, and I couldn’t find another adult to come with me. But I felt the need to be there. And I want my children — ages 10, 8 and 14 months (mostly the first 2, tbh) — to see what the people can do to try and heal our democracy.

I want my kids to hear me call our representatives in Congress. I want them to watch our friends and neighbors organize in local solidarity meetings. And yes, I want them to see what tens of thousands of outraged but peaceful people do when the leaders of their country make terrible, terrible decisions.

Taking 3 kids to a protest rally wasn’t easy. But it wasn’t raise-your-babies-in-a-refugee-camp hard. I could do it. I have the freedom and privilege to be able to do it. So, I did. (And I know full well I should have done it long before now. Old dogs. New tricks.)

My oldest got antsy; she had a date with friends, and she was watching the clock.

My middle child forgot her hat, and it was cold. My youngest had a diaper leak — of course.

We didn’t stay long. But it was fine. It was all fine. We saw plenty of strollers and baby carriers and kids holding signs they had clearly made themselves. If I was bananas to do it, I was in good company.

I’ve been to 2 such gatherings in my life — both in the past 10 days. I’ve found them to be uplifting, empowering, heartening events that have given me strength to keep picking up the phone (Hi, overwhelmed senatorial aide. It’s me, Rebecca. Again.) and keep asking, “What can I DO beyond yelling at my TV and fighting with strangers on Facebook?”

Maybe protests won’t continue to be the positive places they have been since inauguration day. Maybe the tone will change as the news gets worse. Maybe my advice to myself about all of the above will be different in a week.

Whether that happens or not, I don’t fault anyone who cares deeply about the events unfolding around us but chooses not to go into the streets with their children. There are plenty of other things to do. (Looking for ideas? This is a pretty good place to start. Or this. And also this.)

But if you want to be present at the march/rally/protest and you’re Googling, “Am I nuts to consider bringing my kids?” You’re not. It can be done.

You go, mamas and daddies. Power to the parents.

Rebecca Joyner is the friendliest ghostwriter you know. Check her out on Linkedin and Twitter.