This Saturday, millions of people in D.C. and over 800 sister marches around the world are expected to participate in the March For Our Lives protests for gun safety. In the Bay Area alone, there are fifteen different marches planned: San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Redwood City, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Aptos, Burlingame, Morgan Hill, San Leandro, Livermore, and Pacifica are all hosting planned gatherings. Big and small, near and far, individuals and families will unite in a call for common sense gun reform and change to the status quo.
My kids are just three and four years old. I used to think that I wouldn’t have to talk about serious things like guns with them until they were much older. That changed when several months ago, a friend in San Ramon told me about the arrest of a dad from her four-year-old’s soccer team, for charges including criminal storage of a firearm accessible to a child and child endangerment: his eight-year-old son had brought the father’s loaded gun to school and showed it off to friends. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but my friend was really shaken up. Just weeks before the arrest, her own four-year-old had played at that child’s house. She had no idea the parents were gun owners, or that there might be a chance that her child would be exposed to a loaded gun in the hands of one of the several young siblings living there.
I realized that I should be asking other parents whether they keep guns in their homes, before sending my kids over there to play. I also realized, sadly, that I couldn’t avoid talking to my little preschoolers about guns. They need to know what a gun looks like and know that guns can be dangerous. I didn’t make a big deal out of it but did show them pictures of guns and explained that guns shoot bullets that can hurt and even kill people. If they were ever to see a gun in real life, they should not touch it. If a kid shows them a gun and wants to play, they should not play but should run to tell an adult about it and ask for help. I think they absorbed the lesson, and I’ve repeated it a few times since then.
While my kids are still too young to understand or emotionally cope with the concept of a school shooter (at 37 years old, I still struggle with the concept myself), they are not too young to understand the idea that people should be kind to one another. They are also not too young to understand that sometimes, people need to follow rules so that others don’t get hurt. That’s what I’m going to stress to them when we march this weekend.
I know that my little ones might not understand too much about what’s going on; I’m often actually grateful that they are too young to absorb much from the current political climate. However, I believe there is value in involving children in these types of peaceful events so that they learn about becoming engaged, civic-minded citizens from the start. What better way than to lead by example? I want my kids to see me participating in democracy, even if they don’t know what that is right now. I want them to hear me call our representative, even if they’re whining for my attention while I do it. When my daughter (then three) and I went to San Jose for the first Women’s March in 2017, she was so excited to be part of the crowd and seemed uplifted and awed by the movement around her. When she got tired of the “parade,” we stopped for a snack and recharged before heading home.
As for this weekend, my kids are most excited to decorate their own signs (“arms are for hugging” and “I’m worth it” are the frontrunners right now) and wear matching colors with me. I’m planning to write my cell phone number and name on their arms, in the unlikely event that we’re separated. I know they’ll be excited about this cool “tattoo.” We are planning to march, but if they seem overwhelmed we’ll just move to the side and watch others go by. We might not even stay very long. Afterward, we’ll go out to lunch and talk about the experience.
What about you? Are you planning to march, and if so are you bringing your kids? What are you telling them about the purpose of the event?