children at political protests

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My kids and I went to a protest recently against the closing of a municipal daycare. Though my children are not in daycare, I recognize the need for daycares and I wanted to stand in solidarity with others. The daycare is unionized and is the only local daycare open in the evening. I know it has allowed women to finish evening courses at universities and hold down jobs they would have otherwise lost. But the value of the daycare isn’t what I want to write about right now. I want to write about a conversation in a comment section of a newspapers online article about the protest.

pictures of my kids at other protestsSome commenters were concerned that children were being used as pawns, by being present at the daycare. The fact is that the children who were there where all with their parents. The children being looked after by the daycare at the time of the protest were back at the daycare.

Some of the children who were at the protest no longer attend the daycare and were happy about seeing their old daycare workers there, and the other children who they used to play with. The daycare staff who were at the protest did bring balloons which the children happily ran around with. They all looked like they were having a delightful time.  So the argument wasn’t really that the children were being tortured by being there.

The argument was that it was somehow invalid for them to be there because they aren’t yet old enough to vote. Or because their parents were foisting their political agendas onto the children. Or that children are supposed to grow up free of political concerns. I argued that my children were participating with their families in public life, and someone responded I should have gotten a babysitter or stayed home. Why? Why? Why?!

I can understand keeping kids away from things that are hateful. Hateful is not the same as “anything I disagree with.” There can be lots of things that I disagree with that I believe would still be fair game for taking your kids to help you protest. Hateful is different. Hateful is not fair game. Hateful stuff shouldn’t happen anyway.This is my now five year old, a couple of years ago. He wasn't asked to carry the sign, he picked it up when someone else put it down.

In some ways the argument of keeping children away from protests is parallel with the argument that parents shouldn’t teach their children religious views, but allow children to discover them on their own. It seems to presume that we cannot share our ideas with our kids and still be respectful enough to allow them to develop their own. It also presumes that there’s a neutral state, whereas I don’t think there exists one. Everything is teaching one’s child, even if the message is “politics isn’t important” or “politics is just for adults” or “you shouldn’t worry about things” or whatever it is a person says to justify why the person thinks children shouldn’t be at protests.

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