“We don’t grab people by anything, we don’t make fun of anyone, and we don’t call people names.” These were a few of the teaching moments the 2016 election season provided parents. Now many say they feel the need to become activists, possibly for the first time. This march in Washington (and around the world) was a way for parents to show their children what they stand for and what they stand against, rather than just trying to tell them or teach them within the confines of their homes and families. They want to show their kids where their values lie, what they agree with or don’t and that their voices, too, can be heard. It was heard at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, where many of the marchers were carried in BabyBjorns, on shoulders or in strollers. We went to the march to ask why parents came with their children, what they were trying to show them and how this new presidency might change the way parents parent. Here’s what a few had to say.
“It’s very important for my daughter to understand women are equally valuable,” said Stefani Roth while walking to the march with her daughter, Sarah Snyder, 9. “It’s been a call to action. Should I run for mayor?” She’s already served on a school board committee in Fairfax City, focusing on students with disabilities. But this mother of four felt she had to come in with her daughter to show her that “women have a right to protect themselves.”
Barrie Moorman was walking with her husband, Julian Hipkins, who had their 1-year-old daughter, Nina, in a carrier, and Nina’s uncle Jason Green. “We went to bed on election night hoping she would wake up to the first female president. We want her to grow up in a world where she knows she can do anything,” said Moorman, a teacher at E.L. Haynes elementary in the District. “We’re both educators on the front lines,” Hipkins said. “We had to talk to our students, many of whom are newcomers to this country, and reassure them we’d protect them. It’s been a lot.”
“I want to see the America I want to believe in. This is so inspiring,” Green said.
“I think it’s important to speak out. There’s been a lot of negative messages that [President Trump has] been sending,” said Brendan Smith, at the march with his wife, Sophie Bethune, and two sons, Soren, 7, and Ewan, 4 and other family members. “We talked to them some about what’s been going on and that this is a democracy. I think it’s important for them to learn about politics and how this might affect future generations.” He wanted his sons to take part because “I don’t think women’s issues affect just women. I want my sons to know that. And I want them to learn from an early age that it’s important to be engaged.”
“It makes me as a mom even more deeply committed to fight racism, stand up for justice and love,” said Allison Smith, a reverend with the United Church of Christ, with her mother, Marianne Smith, 74, and Allison’s three daughters, Cecelia, 13, Molly, 10 and Calliope, 7. “We need to put our faith in action.”
“It’s hard to see the new leader act in inappropriate ways and do things you’d tell your kids not to do,” said Lisa Gilinsky, here from Boston with her husband Marshall and children Dahlia, 10 and Micah, 8. “We want to teach them that being kind is the most important thing,” Marshall said. They attended the march with other friends and children who were laughing, wearing “Nasty Kids” shirts, and ready to march.
Ebony Washington attended the march with Caleb, 10, and Lola, 8, along with her mother, Elnora Cobham. “I brought them because I feel like I have to teach them through actions,” she said as Caleb took video of all the excitement around them. “They should see it for themselves. Learn you should love all people, speak up for what’s right.” But, she said, she’s not sure this will change how she parents them. “I’ve had to parent them a lot differently than a lot of parents” because they are African American. “They are well educated about who they are, their role in American history, their responsibilities. But this promotes more discussions, which is great.”
Donna Reynolds and her daughter, Chelsea, 25, a medical student, said they had never marched or demonstrated together before. “It was kind of a ‘if you’re going, I’ll go,'” said Donna, who has three daughters and one son. She got choked up when she first started speaking about traveling here with her daughter. Her son, she said, is just as involved in the day’s events as her daughters. He’s abroad but has been checking in all day with encouragements and requesting updates. She said that when her husband was growing up, it was not the case for men to be involved in “women’s issues.” They both said they don’t think of it as just women’s issues. “We are standing together in the face of adversity [toward] women,” Chelsea said.
Suzanne Craik had taken a bus 10 hours to get to the march. She was there because she has three daughters, a granddaughter and a granddaughter “in utero.” “I felt like on Nov. 8, my voice wasn’t heard. Today it is. I have these girls I’m responsible for and I don’t want this to be this world” they live in. “I’m going to take every opportunity to empower my girls as well. You have the right to make your voice heard,” she said. Craik then pulled her 90-year-old father’s handkerchief out of her pocket. He was one of only two men in his retirement home who voted for Hillary Clinton. He couldn’t come, so his handkerchief joined instead.
“This is fabulous, all these people bringing our young,” said Kathy Miles, a corporate lawyer at the event with her daughter Alexandra, 20. “For their generation, they grew up with these rights and didn’t appreciate the fight it took to get them. Now they have to fight to keep them.” When asked what she was mostly concerned about, she asked “How long do you have?” and laughed. Among her concerns: health care, gender equity, reproductive rights and equal pay. “Everything. And as a black woman, times that by 10.”
“We’re hoping to make a difference and have our voices heard,” Alexandra said.
They were with two friends, Tracy Sbrocco of Silver Spring and her daughter, Simone Carter, 8. “I want for my daughters to not accept so much of the gender bias, to not just take it when it comes,” she said. With a black husband, she said, she’s often talked to her daughters about race and gender issues. “My background chatter has finally come to the forefront.”
Tara Sridharan, 10, and Mira Sridharan, 9, of San Francisco, came with their mother, Heather McPhail Sridharan, because, she said, “I wanted them to understand the impact they could have. I didn’t want them to stand on the sidelines.” Women on their flight from California gave them their pink hats.
Jennifer Ignat and son, Luka, 12, came to the march from Ellicott City, Md., after recently moving from Houston, because she felt this was a turning point in the country. “Our kids are watching us and watching our commander in chief. If we can’t look up to him, what does that say?” The election, she said, had brought up conversations about consent and equality.
Michelle Sauve was standing with her three children, Michah, 11, Brenna, 8, and Brielle, 6, who had a loose tooth. Their main concern, she said, is the environment. They live in D.C. and are Mohawk. “We’ve been against the Dakota Access Pipeline” and are concerned what will happen to the environment, Sauve said. “It’s our movement for our generation, and I wanted them to be a part of it. One day I’ll have grandchildren, and they’ll say ‘Grandma, did you go?’ I want to show them that we’re standing up for our rights.”
Lavanya Ramanathan contributed to this report.
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