Thursday, October 6, 2011

open letter to lydia and bill

Dear Lydia and Bill, but mostly Lydia,

A little birdie told me that you were name-dropping on your show today.  And that the name was mine.  I know, I should have expected that, what with the whole Commenting On Your Effbook Page and whatnot.  But I just couldn't help myself.  

See, you said, "I'm asking: Would you let your 12 yr old participate in ‘Occupy Wall Street protests?' I didn't think so...", which is *so* not very 99% of you.  Just saying.

The thing is?  I would let my 12 year old participate in a protest, pretty much any protest, and including the Occupy Wall Street protests.  I don't actually have a twelve year old child at the moment, but if you were to add up the ages of Miss O and the H-Bomb, I would have a 12 year old.

And since I know you're just gripping the edge of your seat, wishing I'd tell you why, I'm going to tell you why.

First and foremost, my job as a parent is to teach my short people to be hard-working, purposeful, contributing members of society who think for themselves.  While it is true that there are days when seriously inappropriate hours of Wii are played, my people know how to work.  The oldest three (ages 8, 6, and 4) do their own laundry.  Sure, they're not good at folding, but they put it in the laundry bag, drag it down the stairs, put it in the washer, add the detergent, press start, move it to the dryer, press start and move it to the green sofa for safekeeping folding area.  Then they take it upstairs and put it away.  My people can cook meals with little input from me.  They feed the cats and the chickens.  They help each other.  They load and unload the dishwasher.  They understand that in the Dayton Family, everybody helps, and that it is important to be kind.

Another part of my job is to be sure that my children understand that most people in the world do not live in the same situation as our family.  We talk about Important Things.  My daughter is 8, and she knows that there are people in the world who do not eat a bowl of rice in a week.  She knows that there are innocent children and orphans locked up in prisons in Uganda.  She understands that there are places where millions of people do not have clean, safe drinking water.  She knows that people do bad things to animals (and I'm sorry, but I just can't link up to one of those Sarah MacLachlan SPCA videos because you'll be weeping and unable to finish reading my post).

That is a lot of information for a young child.  You're totally right if that's what you're thinking right now.  But here's the thing:  we don't just talk about the problems, about the suffering, about the injustice of it all. We talk about solutions, and the people who are making it the work of their lives to accomplish change.

We hosted a Cupcake Kids event to benefit Sixty Feet, a not-for-profit that provides clean water, education and medical care for imprisoned youth in Uganda... we made 15 dozen cupcakes and raised $1400.  For Christmas, we have purchased "gifts" from World Vision and have made donations to The Buffalo City Mission in my mother's name, and Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County in honour of my father-in-law, who helped to found the organization in Genesee County.

Solutions, each and every one of them, and believe me when I say we talk about what $1400 will purchase for imprisoned children, or how the City Mission will feed the homeless and hungry with our $100.

We are empowering our children to make a difference in this world.

How does this relate to a bunch of people camping out in public parks in New York City and hundreds of cities across the US, including Buffalo and Rochester?  We talk about what is going on.  Why are those people sleeping in a park?  Do they have homes?  Do they have jobs? What do the signs say?  What is the point?  

We watch the videos, and we talk about that.  What are they saying?  What does that mean?  Why did that police man bash that guy's head into a parked car and take his camera away?  Is it illegal to take pictures of police?  What do you imagine a person would have to do or say in order to get beaten unconscious with a nightstick?  Will the police near us beat us up?

These are serious conversations, and I'll be honest, it's hard to explain Wall Street and financial corruption to an 8 year old.  She totally understands corporate greed ~ she tells me that when I keep all the fruity tootsie rolls for myself, even though fruity tootsie rolls are intended for children, that I am Doing Corporate Greed.  No lie.  And really, it's a pretty good analogy for an eight year old.

So if, after all of these conversations, my darling daughter came to me and said, Mama, I've been thinking about these protests, and I think that some people aren't following the rules in the Constitution.  I agree that banks should take care of people's money, and I think the government should not give the banks money for screwing up people's money.  I think the death penalty is wrong; I'd like to make a sign and go walk with the protesters on Saturday. 

You can bet that I'd be getting her some poster-board and a Sharpie, and we would be at that protest without an ounce of hesitation.  And note that I said WE, because as her parent, I need to protect her, and not only be available to explain what is going on, but also to be the adult and pull her out if the situation became volatile or dangerous.

It is a very small world that is our home, and it is very important to my husband and me to raise children who feel connected to the people around them.  I want my children to be considerate and conscious and caring, and to really think about the things that are happening, not only in our tiny town, but in tiny towns across the world.  I want them to see that their actions matter, that their inactions matter, too.  And if my conscious, thinking, little beings have formed reasons and plans of action, it is my responsibility to help them reach their goals.

So there you go.  A super long, unrequested commentary just for you, because nothing says, Gee, thanks for mentioning my opinion on your show, like an open letter blog post.  But if you have a minute, maybe let me know why you wouldn't let your hypothetical 12 year old rock Wall Street.  I'd love to know.


P.S.  One last thing.  The WGRZ website is totally giving you and your show the shaft, which is totally unfair even considering Bill's Face For The Airwaves.  If all the protesters weren't so gosh-darned busy this week, I'd suggest they swing by headquarters and give the muckity-mucks The Business.  


  1. Excellent post! I agree whole-not half but wholeheartedly! We, as parents are raising adults (thanks Dr. Phil) and it is our job to teach them think for themselves and support that process. I would also accompany my child to a protest or any other legal demonstration representing the opinions of my child.
    PS thank you for not posting the Sarah videos, that is just too much for my heart! :)

  2. Thank you for saying what you say! Thank you for making me THINK. And for thinking about things I may not have. I get caught up in this hustle and bustle and forget about the way more important things going on out there and raising our children to also be conscious and considerate of those things. I don't know what age I'd feel comfortable with my child at a protest, and even if I felt it was important and o.k. my husband, their dad very well may object, but yes I'd accompany them as well.

  3. And then they grow up and text you photos from the Troy Davis protest that they attended in Union Square and call you when their heads can't wrap around the police brutality they witnessed at the Wall Street Protest.
    And you go to bed at night, proud of the young people you have raised.

    I am you, fast forward to 14, 18 and 22.

    This post is so true and right.
    Keep on empowering the little people.

  4. hooray for you! and I'm not sure who lydia is, but boo for her!

  5. I took my 3 year old and 9 month old to the Occupy Syracuse protests. I figured it was their first chance to observe and participate in civic engagement. We take them with us to vote too (well, not the youngest yet, but that's only b/c there hasn't been an election since she was born!). I guess I fail to see why this would even be an issue, unless the protest in question was known to be violent. If it's actively non-violent, then WTF? The idea that little kids can be marketed to, can be dressed up in sexy clothes, can be forced to spend all day sitting at desks when their little bodies need to MOVE, but shouldn't be included in actively learning anything about what's going in the world they'll inherit? Again, WTF? If my baby is old enough to wear a marketing slogan across her behind, she's old enough to witness fellow human beings sitting outdoors discussing their hopes and dreams and speaking out to make them possible.


talk to me, people. because you know i get all giddy when you do.