A is for Activist (Raising Radicals)

17 October, 2014

A is for Activist!

“Hip hop hooray! Tom and Arthur are getting ready for their wedding!” A classic theme for our doll play; getting married. Everyone is getting married these days for Ramona. It is all about the marriage. (Even the biscuits tie the knot before she eats them.) I slip the gay dad’s union in without Ramona batting an eye lid. I figure it is our role to balance out any limiting and exclusive social conventions through our play, right? We tackle all sorts of progressive stuff with those dolls.

It’s a bit of a tightrope. As all of these parenting acts are. How do we guide children into open mindedness? How do we instill a status quo challenging inquisitiveness? Must we? Should we?

I have always thought my role was to raise radicals. We attend peace and environmental marches with gusto. I try and tackle any “isms” that dare cast their shadow upon our lives.

But I’m beginning to think that the biggest thing I can do is simply give our children the space to be who they are, to find what they are naturally drawn to. To allow them to question everything, to be authentic.  To trust themselves, to respect themselves. I think these things are perhaps the foundations that every radical stands upon. Less then what I do with them. Do you know what I mean?

I do think we can nurture a questioning environment. And I thank books for helping me do this. The girls were recently giving A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. (Actually, they were given it by Thalia of, not Innosanto. Thalia wrote 6 Ways Children Can Change the World this week, which I found quite thought provoking!) A is for ActivistA is for Activist A is for Activist A is for Activist  It is a brilliant little book – one that every kid should have upon their shelves.  Imagine a world where words like “feminist” and “grassroots” and “abolitionist” are a part of every child’s vocab.

(How is it that children manage to pick up swears so easily? Rather than classic human rights lingo, huh?)

We also hunt out the books recommended by a Mighty Girl…

We have an open door policy with books (although, you know I sometimes can’t help myself tweaking boy knights into girl knights) but I try really hard to bring in stories that nurture a perspective that includes and celebrates difference and diversity and action.

And I’m trying largely to trust that the way of being with our children is as much as important as what we do with our children, if we really care about raising radicals. It isn’t wholly necessary to represent the rights of homosexual people in every doll game, y’know?

And I’m also trying to come to terms with not raising a radical! To just love whomever they are, and whatever they love.

And mostly, I’m trying to put my own adult privilege under the microscope and attend to my own inner urges to control. Because our world will only ever become more equal if each child understands that power shouldn’t be used over another person.

As the ever challenging Teresa Brett puts it, in Parenting for Social Change:parenting for social change
Would love to hear from your radical family!

A is for Activist is available from here from the Book Depository – currently discounted on there and with free delivery, whoopville!- or ask your local independent to stock it!

This blog is for Blog Action Day 2014! Do check out all the blogs that have joined in today, and my previous year’s contributions:

Landgrabs- where roots and rights count for nothing

Occupy London- a glimpse of utopia

You Might Also Like

  • Eumaeus 17 October, 2014 at 9:12 am

    If you get worn out raising radicals, you could raise hippies. In which case I recommend reading a number of books by Byrd Baylor. You never know what you’ll get though. My parents tried to raise a corporate accountant and they got a radical.

  • Exsugarbabe 17 October, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I love my kids because they question everything, bring up kids with an education from you and the world around them.

  • Mel Wiggins 17 October, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Awww, I love this and resonate and nod my head and am a few clicks away from ordering that booky book for Levi. I’m with you. I reckon we are both after ‘free radicals’ as kiddos. Radically free and able to search out their own thoughts/opinions with the safety of modelling, loving, radical (sometimes sweary) parents xo

  • ThaliaKR 17 October, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Love this book and love this post!

    I agree in theory with an open door approach to reading, but I do find it hard in practice, and am a pretty active gatekeeper just now – I think I’ll tail off when he can read for himself…

    We have deliberately avoided all fairy tales (so hard to avoid SO MANY awful messages about traditional roles and stereotypes) and I first told my boy a severely censored version of Cinderella just recently (he’s 2, almost 3) because she’s mentioned in a Matilda song he loves.

    He had so many questions, even with me leaving out things like ‘wicked stepmother’ ‘ugly stepsisters’ and the idea that the Prince wanted a wife. It was a huge shock to him that people would be mean to Cinderella – he asks me why, regularly.

    I think this age – the dawning of the ‘why’ addiction – is a good one to introduce things he *should* be questioning, and I’m glad he didn’t just grow up taking all of that story for granted, having heard it from birth.

    Also in the fab, rebellious context of Matilda:

    In her cellar
    Didn’t have to do much
    As far as I can tell
    Her godmother was two-thirds fairy
    Suddenly her world was a lot less scary
    But what if you don’t have a fairy to fix it?
    Sometimes you have to do a little bit of mischief.”

  • Becky 17 October, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    My son is a feminist age 10 and proud to be one and yes I deliberately told him about the suffragettes etc. and how women are still treated less well than men because otherwise I really don’t think by this age her would naturally have come upon this understanding. Schools not great on feminsim. So I don’t mind I’ve steered him …I have also raised him a strict veggie and wont let him go to zoo. Am going to have a rebellion on my hands most likely but really just trying to do what I believe is right. Will always let him know I love him anyway but no beefburger is crossing our door! hahaha!

  • Penny 18 October, 2014 at 1:37 am

    I feel like my 8 year old really started to form strong opinions recently and her own tastes. I agree, with hindsight I think giving them a strong sense of self and confidence comes first, with lots of little hints and modelling thrown in along the way! I love to watch how they play with dolls, I was chatting to a friend about how I am cool with Barbie, I think it is because dolls are such great tools to create representations of the world and act out what you see around you. And to throw them curve balls!

    • Lucy 22 October, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Yes, so very true! How great to hear about your opinionated 8 year old 🙂

  • Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork 4 November, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Very interesting and thought-provoking post. As a foreign resident in a generally quite traditional and narrowminded society, I’m constantly asking myself how to make sure my son grows up without all the prejudices others have shown us. I worry that no matter what I do to at home, it’ll be cancelled out by the influence of society.

    However, I think your last comment about how we as parents do (or don’t) use our power over them sums it up. Our children will eventually form their own opinions, which may well be nothing like we expected, but what matters is that they use those in a positive way. By showing them with our actions how to ask others to cooperate rather than force them to comply, I’m sure they’ll grow up as fair and compassionate individuals, and hopefully they’ll also willing to spread those values! But I guess you can only hope, in the end 😉

  • Fabulous Children's Picture Books with Diverse Representation - Sacraparental 22 January, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    […] And you can read Lucy’s detailed review with great pics of the pages here. […]

  • Picture books for kids who want to change the world - Sacraparental 4 September, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    […] is for Activist is a gorgeous, engaging alphabet book with big ideas and big words for both kids and […]