My daughter inspired me to become an activist

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Mary Brown

I have always been interested in politics and current events and I consume media with an insatiable appetite that my partner calls an "addiction to words on paper". But, before the birth of my Noodle, I refrained from overt political activism. I have been intimidated and meek.

I come from a conservative and religious-minded family and spent the last five years exploring other political and economic models and ideas, coming to embrace a perspective melding socialism and humanism. I'm still unsure of my newfound opinions and lack the confidence to talk about these ideas in public. My internal idea of who I am and what I believe clashes with a somewhat quieter, perhaps even frightened, public persona.

Over the past nine months, as Noodle has gone from yawning, burping little Macaroni, to wriggling, crawling Spaghettini (she takes after her very tall and very thin dad) I've begun to imagine her experiencing a more socially diverse and generous community, one where the "personal is political", where volunteering is part of our daily routine, where our family is made up of not only our large biological family, but an extended, loving "chosen" family. I also want her to experience activism: to learn that standing up for justice, for freedom, for compassion, is rewarding and exciting!

This has meant that I must confront my fears of confrontation. I have to be an example. So in May, when protests against the G8 meetings happening in Toronto began springing up across Canada, I took Noodle to a rally. My first political rally! I went with a close friend and we stayed away from the black-clothed protesters and police. We chanted a little, we read the pamphlets, we spoke to some fellow demonstrators, and walked part of the route beside a political marching band. It was exciting! And I have to admit, I was kind of proud.

Noodle, chillin' at her first rally.
Later in the summer Noodle and I went to an anti-homophobic and transphobic rally and then to a rally in support of those detained during the G8 meetings. (The largest mass arrest in Canadian history!) I had so many people come up to ask about Noodle and comment on her presence. I loved seeing other kids running around and chanting too.

I know there are some who would see me bringing Noodle to these events as trying to influence her thoughts, perhaps even insidiously "brainwashing" her. Although I hope that she does eventually hold many of the same political and social values that I do, the more important lessons I wish to impart are that she puts herself out for what she believes in, joins communities, makes public those beliefs that she holds as important and valuable.

I hope Noodle will have the confidence to defend women's rights and embrace feminism and to stand up for those causes that become personally important to her. I hope she becomes her own strong, free-thinking, courageous individual, letting no one stand in her way.

Since Noodle's birth I have attempted to overcome my shyness and become more involved in my community. Noodle is helping me emerge from my shell! It's an incredible gift. I only hope that I can offer her the same as she grows up.

  1. Awesome post! You're so right! Being an example is important and you're imparting very important lessons! I remember going to rallies with my mom when I was a teenager and it was great!

  2. Good for you! I've been feeling similarly since the birth of my daughter. I hope I can get it together and follow your example.

  3. That is great!

    Tho as a side note, for those w/o children or waiting to have children…why wait until you have a kid to be involved? Go for it!

  4. I have a pregnant friend who recently said that she was amazed at how strong, and assertive and ambitious she had become since choosing motherhood. I applaud her; I only wish more women felt that strength with or without children.

  5. You aren't "brainwashing" her, you're teaching her your family's values – equality, fairness, and justice. The fact that you're aware of your own biases and eager to ensure that when she's old enough she can make her own choices puts you MILES ahead of people who push their bigoted values onto their children.

    And I looove seeing kids at rallies!!

  6. My twin nieces have been going to gay pride rallies with their mom for years. They're sixteen now, and it's fantastic to see how they've grown into such beautiful, compassionate young women.

  7. Thank you everyone for the positive comments! I completely agree with JB: I wish I had been more involved when in school. There's a huge community of activists out there who want to help and building those connections and allies is so important. QoB: I've felt the same with regards to assertiveness and confidence. I'm making a strong-women-in-history poster for my daughter's room… hoping that will help with role models… And female activists in the community are the best role models too!

  8. I live in a pretty conservative area of an otherwise blue state… my husband and I are adamant that Wee Beastie isn't indoctrinated into the racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance we were both exposed to as children. Congratulations on expanding your child's mind, even if she might be too young to remember 🙂

  9. I don't think you're brainwashing her anymore than any parent who brings their child to religious services. It's exactly as Meaghan said, you are imparting your family values which is a big part of parenting.

  10. I love this! I'm 30 weeks pregnant and been attending protests, rallies, and marches all along. I might have to tone it down a little once my little girl is born but I hope to bring her to a some events.

  11. My activist lens has become so focused since I had my son about a year ago. I've always been outspoken, and a semi-active participant, but when I got pregnant I started to realize that I had been incredibly lucky that my parents were activists (very involved in local politics, letter writing, etc.) and in order to foster activism I would need to practice activism.

    Now, I'm loud, and writing letters, and gathering, and marching – because I need my son to understand that it's important to stand up for what he believes in. (Hopefully he'll believe in what I believe in, but that remains to be seen, right? :-))

    Good for you!

  12. I went to my first peace rally at about 5 months pregnant, and knowing I was bringing another person into the world was exactly what made me go. It also made me think a lot about what kind of person I want to be, and I decided what I didn't want to be was someone full of impotent rage. If something's important enough to make me angry, it's important enough do something about. If it's not important enough to do something, I have to let the anger over it go.

    Seven years later, I still yell in traffic, but I also write more letters to my senators and am more involved in charity work.

  13. Wow Amy. I think I need to use your comment about anger as a mantra!

    On another note: since deciding to leave the church in which I was brought up, I've had a hard time understanding why people say they think it's important to have a faith to pass on to their children. I understand wanting to provide answers and certainty, but through a church? (I'm not against it, I just have difficulty with the idea… definitely because of my experience in the church) I guess I really feel that this newfound activism is my answer to that need to provide some certainty… We may not have the answers, but we can work to make the world a better place! That, to me, is a decent start. Any thoughts?

    • Funny you should mention faith. I'm who wrote the Offbeat Mama post "Having a Baby Made Me an Atheist." I don't want to go off on a tangent about it, since that's not really what this article is about, but people have mentioned bringing kids to protests, etc. as a way of teaching their values. I think that's right on. I grew up going to church and also participating in faith-based charity work. As an adult, I left the faith part of it behind, but I definitely kept the values of community service, etc. I hope that's what my child gets out of participating with me, the importance of being involved and speaking her mind, even if my issues aren't her issues in the long run. I don't want either of us to be a slogan shouter.

      • I loved your post! It was the first time I'd heard someone say (or write!) that parenthood had sent them in that direction over the other. At the end of the post I was thinking: "I want to know more about this family!!" Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  14. My parents took me to loads of anti-abortion rallies and clinic protests growing up. At the time, I thought it was a boring chore, but later I was shocked to realize that most of my high school classmates thought that protesting was something that had happened in the 1960s & 70s, and then stopped.

    I’m now pro-choice, but I’m deeply grateful that my parents showed me an example of political activism. I really hope that I set an equally good example for my children of living what I believe and, if they're anything like me, I'm not too afraid of brainwashing them into believing what I do.

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