As a parent of grown children, I hope my husband and I taught our children to be kind. I hope we showed them how to be generous and how to be good friends to others. But I think my fondest hope is that we taught them to fight for what they believe in.
That’s why it warmed my bruised and battered heart last week to join others at our town’s main intersection. We were gathered to protest the U.S. Supreme Court and the likely end of Roe v. Wade. I was devastated and barely able to summon the energy to go, but I did. And while standing with my sign, I saw children there with their families. And it felt like healing.
Our three kids went to a lot of protests when they were growing up. We got them involved with politics and taught them to wave signs and fight for things they believed. They all still care about politics.
It’s not surprising. My husband and I met when we were Congressional staffers and politics is our passion.
My oldest daughter’s favorite childhood tradition was watching “The West Wing” with us each week, when she was a kid. Her “Night of the Notables” project, at Chautauqua Elementary School, was about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women’s right to vote.
She works now for Planned Parenthood. I greatly admire our daughter and the other hardworking young people fighting to protect our right to choose. What an incredibly difficult time to work on this issue. And it has never been more important.
We always taught our kids about the importance of being involved, of voting, of taking a stand. I was talking to my good friend, Cindy Powell, as we drove home from the protest. Cindy was a long-time government teacher at the high school and taught many kids over the years about the power of protest. She shared how she and her husband always brought their daughter to their polling place when she was young (back before vote-by-mail) and I told her we had that same memory, of bringing our kids with us to watch us vote. We need to plant the seeds of civic engagement in our kids very early and hope they grow.
A cynic may say our little protest on Vashon won’t change the world. The true challenges facing our democracy are not on Vashon but in the corridors of power, where promises are routinely broken and agendas are deeply cynical.
But gathering on the street corner at least gives us a way to be with others, whether it is sharing grief or rage or a smile and a hug. And seeing kids there protesting, learning from their parents about how important it is to fight for your beliefs? That’s everything.
I believe it is the best thing I can do as a parent – leave three people behind me who will fight to make the world better.
That’s why it is so important to go to the intersection during a protest. Or wave signs. Or cheer. Or honk your car to show support. But however you engage, show your children what you are doing and why.
Lauri Hennessey has written for The Beachcomber over the years and is the CEO of League of Education Voters. She has three grown children.