The Future Generation #72

The way we create our community

    I am happy to report that I have witnessed good daycare at a political event. The Anti Authoritarian Babysitting Club (ABC) put on daycare during the whole of the convergence (various protests: against the World Bank, US policy on Columbia, and "War at Home and Abroad") in Washington DC during April 19-22. When I heard the call that ABC was short volunteers on a few time slots—a friend and  I hauled our butts down to DC. I was really impressed with what I saw: very good people (mostly sweet and playful punk boys), and a beautiful location (a daycare in Adams Morgan). Not a lot of kids showed up, perhaps because the location was not right where the protests were.
    I heard, at that time, ABC were gearing up to do daycare at a Feminist Convention. They seemed very active. I emailed someone and asked if they had a manifesto or anything to print. Nope. They are all just about Doing it. How refreshing. I met a young school teacher there, and also a very cool woman who had previously been squatting with her two kids and partner. I hope they write some stuff for my zine.
    I just talked to the aforementioned mama and she told me that ABC is working daycare at Lady Fest (in DC). They are concerned about being used as a service group. They are happy to do child care but they want to have a skill share workshop to create an awareness of why it is important to have child-care.
    There is many reasons why it is important to have child care, especially at events that are about political liberation. A feminist analysis I read in Children and Feminism (published in the late 1980’s by The Lesbian and Feminist Mothers Political Action Group of Vancouver, Canada. They did daycare at many events in Vancouver, created an awareness of how/why to include children and mothers, and worked for social justice) broke it down like this: We live in an unjust society, where some people have power and wealth by oppressing a lot of other people. One of the predominate features of this society is specialization. Each person learns to partition the various activities that make up her life. Play is separated from work, etc. “It might make sense to separate child care from other activities and make it the responsibility of specialists because we are used to thinking of every task as part of an isolated specialty. But really, taking care of children has a natural place in every human life.” Specialization and compartmentalization may be good for capitalist production but it is not good for our mental health.
    Another feature of our oppressive society is a high regard for independence. “We often think that the people who are able to act independently in the most circumstances deserve the highest social status. I believe we should reverse this thinking. Being able to act independently is not so much a cause of high social status, as it is an effect. Those who have the highest status—rich, white, well educated men who are in good health—have more opportunities to act independently because our society is set up to meet their needs. Our social set up prevents those of lower status—the young, the old, the handicapped, and the poor—from acting independently.” Parents, particularly single parents, and children really have a low amount of independence to do anything. They are excluded and unwelcome from many things, why exclude them from our gatherings and demo’s too? When people believe they have the right to be independent and free of any child care duties, because they have chosen not to have children, they are acting as if their decision doesn’t affect anyone else. They are acting on an individualistic principle that was developed by men to keep their privilege.
    We think that we lose our individuality when we have to rely on others. But in truth, life is full of interdependence. We experience a need for other’s help in our youth and old age, and all of us need to co-operate with others in order to exist. We need to support each other’s struggles and work together in order to create change. When we struggle alone, in personal pain, seeing ourselves as individuals and not as members of unequally privileged groups receiving differential treatment based on sex, race, and class - we pose no threat to the system.
     In this analysis, mothers are specialists with little status, whose work is basically exploited. Child rearing has become a one woman job only since the industrial revolution. At one time, members of extended families worked together to insure their mutual survival, including the survival of the children of the group.
    If you don’t include children in your movement, I can’t help but think, your movement has no future. I think that leaving out parents, children—or for that matter, any group of people—from your “revolution” is whack. Child care needs to be taken as a serious issue, and included in the early planning of any gathering. Faith (my proof- reader ) would like to add, “Even if only one child shows up that still constitutes a NEED for child care.”
 
    Lately I was going through an old box of books in my grandmothers basement and I found a guide book to the 1989 Without Borders Anarchist Conference and Festival in SF. I have such fond memories of that event and the daycare! It was one of the few opportunities I had that year to socialize with people and feel free and unstressed. Its not like I left my 17 month daughter there for long, but I could leave her a bit or go there and hang out - like a safe spot for her to play or sleep while I talked to others. They had peanut butter sandwiches and other thoughtful things. It was very close to the courtyard with everyone else and the workshops so we came and went as we pleased. This is what it said in the Without Borders Booklet:
    Volunteers needed!
We need people (including non-parents!) to come and spend a few hours in the kids’ space. You don’t need experience - just a willingness to relate to children as who they are. This is not a chore; this is a hands-on workshop in age relations, empowerment, communication, creativity and play. Way more fun than two hours with a bunch of talking-head grownups!
    How we would like this to work
    One person will coordinate childcare and kid’s activities for each day. Two (or more) adults will be with kids at all times, if possible. Adults should sign up (by 10 am) for 2 or 3 hour shifts - we’ll try to align this with the workshop schedules. Shift schedules will be at the info center. A carpeted room will be the quite room (reading, naps) when needed, and will be baby-safe as much as possible.
    Parents will use a sign-in sheet to let volunteers know where they can be found, when they will return and any other info.
    Parents with little ones (3 and under) are asked to return every 2 - 3 hours. Older kids can sign themselves out to let parents know where they are. Medicines and medical conditions (illness, allergies, etc) must be discussed with the coordinator or volunteers before you leave your child.
    Responsibility
The Kids’ Committee will provide the best childcare arrangements possible, but the parent or other adult who brings the child is ultimately responsible for her or him. Make sure the physical space and emotional climate provided feels OK to you and your kid. Use your intuition and common sense.
-The Kids’ Committee
    Patriarchy Begins at Birth
The need for childcare at this conference has been discussed mostly as a logistical problem, like renting a location or printing a newsletter. I believe it as a central an issue as racism or sexism. Why? The way we treat the kids among us is the way we create our community.
    Start Here Now:
*Spend some time in the kids’ area - especially if you are a non-parent
*Look at the ways that your workshop/performance/event can include kids, or be made interesting/accessible to them.
*Be aware that kids here are not appendages of their parents, but are fully members of our community. Acknowledge them and include them when it feels appropriate.
- Daniel

    Just lately, I read an interesting discussion on the Internet, at Mamatron.org under the Punker Mamas forum, entitled Rant: do you feel ostracized from the punk community. It is really fascinating to read a discussion from mama’s all over the country - from New Orleans to Portland, to Idaho - and there takes on their scene (positive, negative, and good advice for making a positive community around you) and how parenthood has been for them. I feel there is some down right profound insights on that thread. One comment was by a woman who felt her community called itself Pro-choice but was actually just Pro-abortion and Anti-having a kid. Another mama wrote “ A lot of parents brought their babies to the Mayday Parade in 2000 in Portland. It wasn’t supposed to turn into a police riot, but it did. When parents complained later about cops attacking their children, other people in the community treated them like negligent parents for bringing their babies to a political event at which cops might be present. People without kids seem to believe that our lives SHOULD stop when we have kids/settle down. That we should no longer be active politically or be interested in going to a show every now and then.”
    Even though I prefer print, sometimes the world wide web blows me away. (I don’t have the Internet at home but I check it out from my nearby library.) I think because the web is an informal and instant way to communicate, it brings in more parents voices than letter writing and stamp licking.
    If you are not into the net, you could always ask someone to print that thread out for you to read. I find it easier to read, when its a print out anyway. I highly recommend you check out that Rant: do you feel ostracized from the punk community. There is some real communication and thought there for a certain minority of people who might be real hungry for it.
    Last of all I would like to thank Chris(tine) as someone who supports these kinds of issues in her newspaper. She originally asked me if I would write this column for Slug and Lettuce and said that she had long been interested in having a punk parent column but all the parents she knew were too busy (with parenting and living, ya know, its hard).
    Drop me a line if you would like to say hi (lately I feel like I am writing in a void) or to send for a new issue of my zine for subculture parents, kids and friends.  China/ China410@hotmail.com/ P.O.B. 4803 Baltimore MD 21211/ 2$ for T.F.G. issue #11 (address from 2002)