The phenomenon of the woke 8-year-old (though they come younger than that sometimes) isn’t unique to the United States. After the flying Trump Baby balloon appeared in London and Scotland last week, we were treated to endless media coverage of the European protesters who were taking to the streets to declare what a horrible person the President is. One pair of entrants in this parade turned out to be Rebecca Schiller and her young daughter. Apparently feeling the need to explain this use of her child as a political prop, she penned an editorial for The Guardian in which she explains why her child is an important element in the #RESIST movement and why she was missing school that day.
On Friday my eight-year-old marched alongside me carrying a banner we had made in our garden that morning. It explains, in her words (“human rights not border fights”), why we are missing school and work to protest against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK…
I am glad my daughter was there to witness and participate in the ritual of collective action when something feels wrong. I spoke to others who, like me, believe it’s our role as parents to gradually, kindly and sensitively introduce our children to the idea that all is not perfect in the world and demonstrate that our voices have power. It’s hard to balance protecting them from emotional stress and harm with inoculating them against the shock of realising that there are terrible people, huge injustices and violence in the world.
Mothers I met on the march said they had had to overcome their own and their partners’ fears to join the crowds on the loud, thronged streets. And they did so because of a shared belief that it’s important to resist the urge to cocoon our kids and instead to prepare them for the task ahead. Not that I know how best to do it – I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve been relying on instinct and common sense and listening to my children.
To use terms which the Europeans might be more familiar with, I’m sorry (not sorry) to have to give you your yellow card. A reasonable person is going to read this article and immediately see what’s going on. The carefully chosen language the author selects makes a number of things clear. She speaks of the banner “we had made in our garden that morning.” Your co-worker is a third-grade child. You gave her a chance to take the day off from school and work on an arts and crafts project. If you’d told her she was going to be pasting together paper butterflies in the garden she would have been just as happy, believe me.
And you expect us to believe that your 8-year-old child came up with, “Human Rights Not Border Fights” on her own? Your kid didn’t come up with that banner slogan out of the blue even if she randomly decided to watch Morning Joe on MSNBC instead of cartoons every day. As you admitted yourself, you have been at work trying to “gradually, kindly and sensitively introduce” your child to your political beliefs. She’s eight. If you had “gradually, kindly and sensitively introduced” her to thinking that illegal aliens were going to come rob your homes and assault you, that’s what she would believe. If you had “gradually, kindly and sensitively introduced” her to the idea that Jews were evil she’d have headed off to the protest march wearing the stormtrooper uniform you’d sewn for her.
Rather than trying to display your miniature human creation to the world as the next leader of the #RESIST movement, perhaps you could reflect for a moment on the fact that you are a parent. You are responsible for your child’s development. In one way, you already know that. If you saw an 8-year-old wearing a Klan costume you wouldn’t blame the little girl. You’d blame her Klan member parents. Stop trying to pretend this is anything but indoctrination.
The catch is that this can and very likely will backfire on you sooner or later. Sure, you can get a third grader to mimic her mother’s words and actions, but in another eight years, you’re going to have an upstart teenager on your hands. They frequently revolt against their parents’ beliefs. And it’s going to be absolutely hilarious in 2026 if she skips school on her own and shows up at a protest carrying a sign supporting whatever the next version of Brexit turns out to be.