Photo Credit: Jessica Dukes
As news junkies, my husband and I end up explaining the headlines to our four-year-old daughter more often than I care to admit. She's at the age where ideas are sticking and questions are plenty. We figure most of it goes over her head, but we're trying to be honest and deft with our age-appropriate answers. Recently, I started a conversation about Occupy Wall Street as we walked to the train, telling her that we were going to see some protesters.
"What's protesters?" she asked.
"Well, some people are upset and they're all getting together to talk about it."
"Why are they upset?"
Cue a rambling, five-minute speech in which I tried to explain that Mommy and Daddy pay more taxes than some really rich people...then I tried to explain what taxes and rich people are...then something about firemen and the public school she attends and airports and her great grandfather who was a union man at the shipyard back in the day. I finally stopped myself and ended with, "They're upset because they want everything to be more fair." If there's anything a four-year-old understands in her guts, it's what's fair and what's not.
At the protest we met crowds of babies and grandparents, college kids and the middle-aged middle class, all of many languages and races. One group didn’t outnumber any other. We went with my parents, who fought for social reform in the ‘60s and got a kick out of the updated versions of classic protest songs. My daughter danced and clapped along with a group of drummers. She got a bunch of free stickers. In fact, she quickly noticed that everything was free, even the food.
We didn't talk too much about what we saw as we strolled through the sleeping bags, news cameras and art. I just wanted to let her see it. Back on the train, I asked her what her favorite part was and she answered, "The drums, the cymbals, and the whistles!" I guarantee that the next few days will bring deeper questions that her daddy and I will have a hard time answering, though.
We went for the spectacle, the historic moment, and yes -- the message. I obviously don't expect her to understand the last few decades of America's economic policy, but I'm comfortable with her learning the effects of our current recession, like: people are having a hard time finding jobs, schools don't have enough money, people can't afford to go to the doctor. I'm also comfortable with her watching her neighbors speak up and demand a lot more fairness in the world. And I hope that my daughter will do the same one day.
Jessica Dukes is Community Director at iVillage. Follow her on Twitter @jessicasdukes