Activist Parenthood- discovering hope and practicing peace

5 February, 2013

I took Ramona on her first protest march when she was a couple of months old. It was a rally calling for alternatives to the proposed government cuts.

She was snuggled up in the sling, complete with a sign that said “These cuts suck!” (Get it? Hehe.) Despite being behind a huge brass band from one of the Unions who honkytonked the whole way round the route Ramona managed to sleep through the nearly the whole thing!

I really believe that marching, speaking out, writing letters and occupying can bring about change. In fact, I am fairly sure it is the only thing that ever has. The frustrating thing is that the change so rarely comes as an instant response, but often many years later, very slowly, as all these form of protest take on an accumulative effect. We are where we are now in this country – with equal opportunities for women, employee standards, child rights, only because there has always been a faction of society calling for a better, fairer world.

We held family fun days at Occupy with arts and crafts and  a bouncy castle

So, as an activist, it was inevitable I was going to be an activist mum…

I spent a good couple of months of my maternity leave at the Occupy protest at St Pauls cathedral. We cycled up almost every day and met a few other parents and tots there. We had a huge toy box and the kids would play and we would talk about the society we dreamed of, and felt was possible.

Ramona even learnt to walk in that beautiful space, lumbering towards the manky pigeons and attempting to ascend that huge staircase.

I am sure it was a place where all the kids learnt something. They learnt hope – that whole crowds believe in an alternative to injustice. They witnessed zeal – that some people are prepared to seem foolish in order to hound these ideals. They discovered diversity and democracy, as people clung to new systems of decision making. There was a joy there, a happiness that can only be found in collective vision chasing, and also a raw anger, a peaceful kind of hunger for something different.

The Kids corner at Occupy- Tots with a Cause teehee!

These are things that are so often present in activist spaces. I felt them intensely at Occupy but experience them also when sewing with the Craftivist Collective or campaigning with the IF movement against hunger. I choose to bring her along and have her involved in these things and I am sure this is all shaping Ramona’s view of the world, helping her sense of “Can Do” and hope.

Recently I have been captured by the idea of parenting as being a potential spot for social justice and world change in itself. That bringing children up gently and respectfully can have a HUMONGOUS impact on society and global systems. Robin Grille charts this in his fascinating book “Parenting for a Peaceful World” – revealing just how exactly the correlation between peaceful child nurturing and peaceful society is – and the reverse, that the bloodiest times in history sit perfectly next to our most violent parenting practices.

I’m convinced these days that every time I opt for love and freedom and respect with Ramona, I am also making a choice about the world I want to live in. I can nurture peace-lovers or war-mongers! Fortunately, I think we are moving towards a place where parents are increasingly allowing their children to bloom and grow in absolute love. Hooray!

Bringing up our kids can be so vital for the future of a fair and beautiful society. But it doesn’t need to be a burden, this idea.“Ah, maaan?! Now I need to try and not bring up a violent dictator as well as making sure she gets Five a Day?” I hope instead it can be liberating- the sense of immense value put on our day to day lives; we are doing a job equal to that of the Prime Minister. (It IS a shame that the only thanks we get are in the form of snotty-nosed snuggles and the only pay is in the form of raisins tucked in to our bras.)

I am heading off on to my second round of maternity leave in a few weeks, with a Spring baby due, and I’m looking forward to having time to devote to even more activisty things with the little ones, confident that they will be learning about justice and hope. But for each day I am not campaigning on something I will reassure myself that my peaceful parenting is equally as important. Now I just need to dot some placards and a honkytonk brass band around the house to keep me motivated… Parenthood and activism

Have you taken your kids on a protest? How do you feel about the potential of parenthood as activism?

PS I originally wrote this for Story of Mum, a creative online network who are focusing on activism this month- go check out their fabulousness.

PPS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!

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  • Downs Side Up 5 February, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Great post. I haven’t actually taken Natty on a protest as such, but we are definately on a lifelong march to change the world together. H x

    • Lucy 5 February, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      I think world-changeyness comes in a myriad of forms, the choices you are making to challenge perceptions on autism is incredible, and so vital for creating a more beautiful and just society!

  • Hannah 5 February, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Ohh I didn to ow you were part of the story of Mum 🙂 I love Pippa and Penny’s site and am looking forward to creating my piece for this months craftism collection. I’m even to give my 5 yr old the ol’ seeing needle and put her own mark on the piece 🙂

    • Lucy 5 February, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      Sounds like a fab idea! Writing in stitch is a lot more satisfying that doing pictures as it is so much quicker! I can’t make the online Craftivism meet as am holding a real life stitch in that night. Have an amazing time!

  • angalmond 5 February, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    In the 1980s, I took my two girls [3 & 1] to the Fight World Poverty protest in Westminster, and they helped me to be a steward, around the same time, we went to the ‘Save Mildmay Hospital’ protest at the foot of Nelsons Column [my husband was in charge of PA] We encouraged our daughters to engage in peaceful protest.
    Aged 12, my eldest wanted to be in a FoxHunting protest rally – so I went with her…

    the girls are 28 and 30 now, and I am thrilled that they still have strong social consciences and are involved in various activities to make the world a better place.

    There is a great verse in the Bible about training our children in the right way, so that when they grow up, they will continue in it. Keep up your parenting efforts – it IS hard work, but believe me, further down the road, you will know it was worth it!!

    blessings to you and your family x

    • Lucy 5 February, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      Wow, this is so inspiring! I love that you in turn supported her efforts to fight animal cruelty 🙂
      I remember my mum suggesting I write to the PM once, when I was 11 about something I care about, and I got a response. That probably did a lot to get me on this path, I reckon.

  • The Good Stuff 5 February, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Great post has really got me thinking.

    Brought up in a really politically active household by a single Dad who passionately believed in the power of protest – standing up for your beliefs was a big part of my childhood. This kind of put me on a path to activism throughout the mid-90’s in London – criminal justice bill, anti-nazi-league, etc.

    But truth betold I have got a bit deflated more recently about the power of protest. Maybe it was after the anti-war demos around Iraq amounting to little or just a growing realisation that a few corporates do what they will and the failure of the political left to do anything about it.

    Anyway you have got me thinking – do I want my little boy to feel empowered or helpless? Of course the first – so probably time we got back out there with him and stood up for what we believe in.

    • Lucy 5 February, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      You know what, I think that is a similar feeling that loads of people have, a real deflation about the impact of protest due to the Iraq war march and seeming lack of effect.
      I am sure though, that long term, the huge mobilisation for peace around that time, fed into what is now acceptable and in the future will be regarded as acceptable. If you know what I mean? So, we invaded then despite the protest but I think that protest could well be part of peace consciousness in society that will stop us invading again….
      But anyway, yes! Pass on a message of hope to your boy!

  • Sian 5 February, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I couldn’t agree more : ) start at home and work outwards x

    • Lucy 5 February, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Yes, talking about feminism with a friend today and she said “Feminism begins at home” – so very, very true!

  • Circus Queen 5 February, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    I love that pic of you sitting there with the kids and your stretchy wrap still tied on! I totally believe that parenting can (and should be) a work of social justice. We hear so much talk of how boring and tiring it is to parent and not enough of how creative and powerful it is.

    • Lucy 8 February, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Ah, yeah, remembering the pre-walk days when I wore a wrap constantly to tuck her in and out of!

    • Lucy 8 February, 2013 at 9:25 am

      And yes! To the creative and powerful!

  • lally young 6 February, 2013 at 7:31 am

    We had a bad incident with taking the kids to see a protest. It got way out of hand and a lot of people got hurt. So they are not really keen on it. I have told them to read and sign online petitions, if they think the cause is a viable one.
    People tend to think that protests now are a waste of time, that they cause delay’s and just want a day off work. I do agree to some point, as I know people who stood on a nursing picket line the other month, just wanted the day off. And this angered me.
    I think this is the main reason some if not all protests are taken seriously anymore.
    I got stuck in traffic on monday, due to a protest. And the amount of verbal abuse these people got was shocking!
    I think if you are going to protest at least make a banner of what it is about. And some people go to these protests just to cause trouble. Hence I will stay at home and do online protests. Its not the same anymore and that is just so sad

  • lally young 6 February, 2013 at 7:34 am

    And did your cause work? Some things the goverment are never going to listen, unless it is made a peoples goverment. One central party instead of the lots of little ones in parlament huggs lally

    • Lucy 8 February, 2013 at 9:27 am

      So sorry you had a bad experience, thay would have been really frighteninf.
      I think these protests all “work” in that they remind us of alternatives and inch is closer towards the ideal 🙂

  • Looking for Blue Sky 6 February, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    My first proper march was when I was about 3 months pregnant with DD1 and I haven’t stopped since! My special girl loves the noise and crowds on a march so that’s even more reason to join. And there are so many causes that affect me: special needs, child benefit, lone parents, it goes on and on. And so does my marching…

  • Mary Firth 25 February, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Growing up in London with parents who believed in protests I marched in many… but since moving up north I’ve realised most protests seem to happen in London. Which is disheartening because taking a child to a demonstration is one thing but having to train it down and back with an unruly toddler with an exhausting day of marching in between is just more than I can willingly arrange. Which has made me feel seriously less-empowered, so maybe I just need to get on with it.

    • Lucy 25 February, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Yes, you are right, most stuff does happen in London. 🙁
      However, I reckon that along with that comes less opportunity for things like media coverage/ impacting your MP. So maybe it is less about training down for the protests (which sheesh, I can understand sounds like a MISSION!) and more about finding creative, local ways of raising awareness etc? Would love to hear your thoughts on that?