|Port workers and their families on the picket line. |
Child holds placard saying "All my daddy wants is a roster".
My children will be coming with me, and their father, to the rally. I expect to see many other children there too, not least because at the heart of the issue of the Ports dispute is the impact of casualisation on families.
Wriggly and Snuffly are unlikely to be holding placards or chanting (neither can read and one can't talk) but they will be there and we will talk to them about what it is and why and see what the verbal one things and so on.
Part of my reason for taking the kids is to show them the possibilities of collective action, of standing up together with others, and give them experiences that are about challenging authority. In time I shall possibly be the authority that gets challenged, but no matter as long as they are thinking critically.
But the main reason they are going, and the main reason most small children who go to protests are there, is because I simply cannot participate unless I can bring my children with me.
Do I think that Wriggly and Snuffly understand precisely the cause and the chants and the speeches flying around above their heads? No. And I don't expect anyone who sees them to think "wow those kids are big supporters of this cause." They are there primarily because I am there.
Is that selfish on my part, to take them along so that I can participate? I don't think so. I'm not putting them in danger or depriving them of something vital; in fact I'm showing them a part of civil society that lots of kids probably only see from the outside, on the television.
If I go shopping and I take them with me no one says I am cruel for making Wriggly and Snuffly tag along. Whenever I've taken the kids to council work I haven't faced any criticism for forcing them to be in a workshop or meeting; rather I've been apologising for when they are a bit noisy or try to steal someone's shoe.
When they get older and it becomes more feasible to do so, I will ask them if they want to come and if they say no then I'll try to arrange a babysitter or something. We'll see how that goes.
And as with protests so with so much else in life - if you make it so that children are unwelcome then you are also effectively shutting out their primary caregivers, and most of the time that's going to be women. Let's see if we can change that.