I’ve spent the past few units helping you gain confidence and be prepared for legislative visits. This unit will discuss the pros and cons of taking kids with you.
I have taken my kids with me on several visits and I have done several on my own. My split is right at about 50/50. My very first scheduled small group visit, the sponsoring organization wanted me to bring Kevin. We were specifically lobbying for special education funding reform and they wanted the legislators to see first hand who is affected. Looking back, I didn’t ask enough questions. It was much more walking than I had planned and I was not properly prepared overall to have a 5-year-old with me all day. That day really WIPED ME OUT! But, I loved it and was hooked…and I’m still going. The learning here is two-fold: Hopefully I am giving you enough tips so that your first experience is largely positive. But, even if it’s not…don’t be discouraged.
Last winter, I had plans to do another planned visit, small group–organized by a sponsoring organization…and I decided at the last minute to not partner with that group. The reason? They specifically said NO kids. I had already done educational trip forms for the school, planned it out and learned this policy last minute. So I decided to do it on my own, sharing a similar message but not officially as a part of the group.
Their reason was this: That other adults (with disabilities) were going to be there, sharing their stories. And they felt that children detract attention away from that. Since my child is the family member with the disability, I disagree. But, not my party so I wasn’t going to crash it with my kids.
Personally, I think lobbying is a non-partisan activity that ALL kids should learn. EVERYONE should make their voices known because currently Congress only listens to us less than 30% of the time (recent Princeton study). While our specific issues may be very partisan, lobbying is open to every US citizen–it’s your right and your duty.
Pros for lobbying with children:
- Kids are cute! I have no data to support it, but I think it increases your chances of a great photo opp, because politicians love to be photographed with cute kids.
- Kids can be a great conversation starter, eases tension.
- It’s a life lesson that all kids should have, imo.
- Especially if your issue is about children, it helps remind politicians of who they are supposed to be serving.
Cons for lobbying with children:
- Children can be unpredictable, may say something unexpected.
- These days may be long, may include lots of travel, lots of walking.
- May detract from a very serious message.
So, how do you decide? There are no absolutes. I don’t think anyone would ever say that absolutely yes or no, you should or shouldn’t bring kids. Think about your overall message and what you wish to convey. Is a child appropriate for that setting? If you are lobbying say for something concerning wounded vets or senior citizens, a child may not be appropriate. Think of the travel and time and if your child can handle it. Do they even want to go, or are they going to sulk and be silent during the visit?
But, if you plan to do this long term, remember that there will always be other opportunities. So even if this visit is not appropriate, they may join you in the future.