But two things were different.
They made their own choice to come.
They are no longer passive protesters.
Gone are the days they sat in their strollers or in baby carriers and just came along for the ride....or the days when they knew the chants but not the issue.
I will never forget the day David's caregiver took me aside at pick up and gravely told me he had been saying something inappropriate in the block corner. I was concerned and asked what he had been saying, while quickly running an inventory of bad words he MAY have heard. She leaned in and whispered in my ear .... "He was saying Hey hey, ho, ho, Gordon Campbell's got to go!". I tried to look concerned but really I was cheering that little dude on in my heart. We left quickly while I could still pull off looking concerned. (Gordon Campbell was then Liberal Premier of the day).
Today that same boy came with us to the protest downtown. He is fully apprised of the issues at hand...he has read all the documents....probably more than I have.
So when a small group arrived just behind us to protest against the teachers union and accuse the union of using the children as "pawns" David was offended a) at the lack of understanding being displayed and b) at being called a pawn.
|Lindsay and her French teacher|
He looked at me and said "I am not a pawn" . I said "Then go tell them that"
And then nearly died as he walked towards some very angry adults all wearing surgical masks covering their faces.
Allan and I were rooted to our spots with our eyes firmly trained on David and ready to close the distance between us in a second.
He said his piece and returned. No less angry.
A while later those adults got a bit rough with others and the police showed up to monitor the situation.
We continued to listen to the speeches and keep an eye on the distraction behind us but when some McMath teaches who had been standing with us (and giving a quick french language refresher to Lindsay while they were there - it looks like you can kick the teacher out of the classroom but you cannot take the teach out of the teacher!) had to leave and gave us their signs David took off to add his physical presence to the sidewalk protest and give voice to his point of view as a student (not a pawn:). I wandered over and stayed close-ish as I wasn't feeling like these angry adults were to be trusted even though the police remained close at hand.
I was SO proud to hear him so clearly articulating the situation and refuting every fact hurled back at him. He finally got a small group around him who were backing him up and telling the screaming adults to "listen to the kid".
Eventually I grabbed his hand and we walked away. There was nothing to accomplish by staying in the melee a small group were making and distracting from the thousands gathered peacefully.
I felt scared and proud and conflicted all at the same time watching him.
Over breakfast we discussed all that had happened....all that was said. And as the news reports of the overwhelmingly peaceful and joyful event were characterized as violent and confrontational by one particular news source that is remarkably biased to one side of this situation...our ever perceptive daughter remarked. "so even the media can be bought...what does that mean for democracy?".
And so as another tumultuous day in this labour unrest has unfolded I reflect that our teens are thoughtful and smart and compassionate and passionate and while they may be missing valuable time in school they have learned (or re-learned) some valuable lessons about government and law and unions and community and compromise and media and justice and democracy in a way no text book could ever have taught them.
Still no end in sight...... another "No School Monday".