As a life-long advocate for human and reproductive rights, I always assumed my kids would follow suit. I want them to see history being made, understand what's happening in the world, and help influence public policy that will help shape their future. So my oldest child has been attending protests and marches with me since before she was born. And as she's grown I've definitely had to adapt my plans to meet her changing needs and keep her safe. So, if you are planning on bringing kids to the 2018 Women's March, you might wonder if there's anything you should know. Turns out, there is, and the best source of information is moms who brought their kids to the Women's March last year. Women helping women, dear reader. It's a beautiful thing.
If I'm being honest, I have to admit that I was extremely disappointed to have to miss the Women's March last year. But I was roughly 11,000 months pregnant and my doctor said no, so it was out of my hands. As a result, I can't give any son-to-be marchers how to handle the protest with kids in tow. So, I asked moms who attended to share what worked (and what didn't work) when it came to bringing their kids with them. Their advice ranges from practical tips — like dressing for the weather, bringing lots of snacks, and having a plan for potty breaks — to political — like making sure they know why you are there and what's at stake for everyone — and all seems so vital, especially at a time when choosing not avoid politics is complicity.
Of course, some moms choose to leave their kids home and attend by themselves, and that's totally OK, too. In the end, as parents we have to do what we believe is the best for ourselves and our children. But if you plan to bring your kids with you to the Women's March, like I do, read on for some tips from other moms who brought their kids last year:
"My mom and I took my daughter (4-years-old at the time) and niece (5-years-old at the time). To me, it was important for them to know why we were there, in the simplest terms. I told my daughter that some people believed that girls and women couldn’t do certain things and make decisions for their own bodies, and that our newly elected president was one of those people. I told her that it was good we could use our voices to tell people that we thought it was wrong.
Aside from that, I made sure she had comfy shoes and easy-to-eat snacks and juice, to avoid a mid-march meltdown."
"My son was 11, was disgusted with the election, and understood the reasons for action.
I recommend weather appropriate clothing — last year was hot, this year not so much. I talked to him about staying with me, not wandering around the crowd and getting lost.
I advised him to not engage with people yelling things that you don't agree with, because that can be dangerous and because they may want to fight. I also told my son not to litter, and to leave the area cleaner than we found it."
"If you child is too young to know your name and how to contact you, consider wearing them in a carrier or using a stroller. If your child is bigger, attach a sticker with your first name and number onto their shoe, inside their coat, or to their shirt, just in case, and be sure to let them know what to do if you get separated."
"Sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks are a must. I always bring a wagon with a shade canopy for events like that so the kids have somewhere to rest out of the sun, a place to store the snacks and any trash, and somewhere to change diapers.
I was worried that the wagon would be an encumbrance, but the Women's March was extremely child-friendly, and there were a lot of kids in strollers/wagons there. I babywore my youngest and was able to breastfeed her in the carrier while marching. My preschooler either walked or rode in the wagon. I wrote my cell number on her arm in case she got separated from our group.
The bathroom situation is potentially difficult once on the march route. There were portable toilets available at the starting location for our local march. I would make sure kids go to the bathroom before the marching starts. For the baby, I used the wagon as a changing station. This is definitely a kid-friendly event. I would encourage people to bring their kids along."
"Brought my 10-year-old and 4-year-old. My littlest is a good walker, but the crowd was a bit much for her and it was hard for her to see. We ended up carrying her a lot. I wish we had brought a stroller. I also agree that snacks are mandatory."
"We took our kids to the one in Denver last year. They were 6 and 21 months. We skipped bringing a stroller or wagon because we weren't sure how much it'd get used and thought it might get in the way on the train we took downtown. I had a carrier for the little one, lots of snacks stuffed in pockets for everyone, and a few drinks. We knew the route for Denver would go past some places with bathrooms, but weren't sure how accommodating they'd be. We stopped in hotels a couple of times overall to change the little one and let the big one go [to the bathroom].
Our older one had cards in every pocket with contact info, and he knows our cell phone numbers by heart. He was definitely tired at the end, but energized by it. He had made his own sign, and enjoyed chanting with the crowd. He disliked the rally part, because he couldn't hear anything and everyone was mostly standing still. The little one slept through about half of the March, once he got cozy and warm in the carrier.
We're planning to take them both again this year."
"I took my kids, who were 3 and 6 at the time. Bring snacks."
"I brought my then-19-month-old son last year. He was tucked in securely in my BOB jogging stroller, which was much easier for navigating the crowd than a regular non-jogging stroller. I also loaded up on snacks and drinks, so he would stay occupied during the march itself. I do wish I had used something sturdier than poster board for my sign, because I was using one hand to push the stroller and one hand to hold the sign and it kept falling down. Oh, and make it a family affair. My mom came too, and it was pretty great to have three generations marching."
"Our girls loved it. We loved it. It was a cathartic moment, and also unifying to be with so many like-minded folks after the crushing feelings we'd had since the election. In terms of parenting fun, we did have some explaining to do to the younger ones about things like 'what does my body my choice mean' (sex ed on the fly, it's never too soon for abortion education) and there were definitely a lot of vaginas around (costumes, hats, drawings, etc). Also hilarious signs, a lot of vulgarity, but the teeny-boppers loved it and felt validated and part of something bigger. The crowd was huge, and we didn't want to fight our way to the speakers, so we just flowed with the crowds."
"I went to the Women's March in Los Angeles last year with my 20-month-old. I will do some things differently this year, as I have a 2.5-year-old and 8-month-old to wrangle. Go with a group if you can. I had to travel to the March without my husband and ended up going with over 10 other moms and their teenage children. They were serious life savers. We all stuck together, looked out for one another, and [they] helped me out if I needed it. Plan your transportation in advance and be very detailed about it. Last year we took public transportation, and it was a mess.
I would recommend against bringing a stroller of any kind. If you do have to bring a stroller, the smallest most compact option is best. It was so crowded in most places last year, I can't imagine wrangling a stroller. I used our large hiking pack and will be doing the same for my older son this year. Our baby will go in our regular front carrier and I will wear a back pack.
Bring water, lots of snacks, diapers, an extra light blanket (to lay down kiddos anywhere for a diaper change) and a back pack. The less you have to carry, the better. Also, go to the bathroom beforehand. We had a terrible time finding a public restroom. In hindsight, I would write down the phone numbers of a few of the people we traveled with, a meeting location if you get lost, and a plan to meet at the end of the day. We had zero cell phone service because of the crowds."
"We brought our then-7-year-old and 9-year-old to the Women's March last year. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. Some things that worked for us were going a bit later, which meant we missed the rally and ended up in the overflow crowd marching in parallel. There were plenty of people, but no time spent waiting around for speeches and not such a crush that the kids felt overwhelmed. We involved the kids in the poster-making and teaching them some chants in advance. We were prepared to bail early when everyone got tired and had a plan to meet up with others.
Also, we allowed the kids to give the middle finger to the Trump International Hotel on the way back to the Metro — something we normally wouldn't encourage."
"Make sure everyone has comfy shoes. It was quite a walk for little ones. People had trouble maneuvering strollers in the crowd, so we were glad we wore our baby. It was very crowded. So, I had to keep counting heads. Otherwise, we had an age-appropriate talk about equality and our beliefs, so they'd know what the heck we were walking in the streets for."