Tonight, I hope we can say that we helped light the bulb in one person's mind to think about the suffering animals endure for their entertainment. It was an amazing feeling, to be surrounded by people - veg, non-veg, all compassionate - working to help protect future generations of animals from the suffering the ones enslaved by Ringling Brothers (or, as Dylan is now calling them, the Ding-a-ling Brothers) currently are living with.
It's only our second protest, and I did have some reservations about bringing the kids (and thoughts of what the HELL am I doing? This is gonna cost me in therapy sessions for sure), but I am SO glad I did. Kids are gigantically more persuasive than adults are, especially with other kids. It was fabulous to see people taking the pamphlets, reading our signs, and hopefully, considering their actions. In the words of Margaret Mead, "
Not to say advocacy is without repercussions. Some people, frankly, just suck. Dylan, my amazing, outspoken, righteous child had comments such as "damn, too bad I forgot my ivory knife at home" and "do NOT get in between me and my children" aimed at him. Passionate as he is, he just said "Mom, that's okay, maybe the next one will listen". We were called "sharks", made teens cry, and parents hold their children close like we were Nazi's coming to kill them. And I reminded my children to smile, say please and thank you, and watched them like a hawk. We ran into friends, acquaintances, and school mates.
Okay, honesty time. The first time I saw a parent from the school, I turned around to my mom and said, "Crap! (okay, maybe it was a different 4-letter word) Hide me!" I couldn't help feeling like one of those Jesus freaks standing on the corner shouting "G*d hates gays!" Then I realized that my children were watching me (do they always have to do that?!!). And I had an amazing opportunity to show them how to be strong, live by your convictions, and be kind. I took a breath, turned around, smiled, and said "well, guess we're on opposite sides of the fence!" She smiled (kinda), we exchanged niceties, and she said "so, why aren't you going to the circus?" And I had a fantastic opening to educate - both her and my kids.
My daughter is much shyer than her brother, and she sat quietly most of the time. I checked in with her often to make sure she was comfortable with the situation we were in, and she was, but chose not to participate. And that's okay, too. It was a hard thing for me to do - much harder when you are 8 and looking at everybody's knees : )
I think if you're considering taking your own kids to a protest/demonstration/advocacy event, it's important to talk to them about it. I explained why I was going to the kids, showed them pictures and videos of the abuse the animals suffer (I viewed everything first to make sure it wasn't too graphic). I explained to them how I thought we could help, and I gave them the choice to come with me. Yes, I urged them to. I also explained why some people might not want us there, say mean things, and maybe even hurt our feelings. And they handled the little bit of adversity we had thrown at us well, because they were prepared.
We ended the night on a fabulous note; going to our favorite veg restaurant! What more can we ask for?? And yes, my kids and Mom DO rock!