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I have been really lucky to have had many of those “I can’t believe that happened!” experiences. Some were things I wanted to do as a teenager that I was able to do as I grew up. Some were things I never considered, but kind of just happened. That was last week in D.C. with Zero to Three at Strolling Thunder.
You.Guys. It was great! We got back last Wednesday and I still can’t believe everything that happened just a few days ago. Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect out of this trip. We knew we were going to encourage Congress to “Think Babies” as they consider policy, but still felt really unprepared for what would actually happen. I kind of love that feeling, by the way. Not sure what will happen, but pretty sure it’s going to be awesome. So here are some highlights from the trip:
- Getting to walk around the National Mall was really fun. I am way too pregnant to walk the whole thing end to end and back, but we got a lot of walking in. My husband’s phone tracked over 6 miles a day! The buildings were beautiful and my daughter loved all the water features because 1) splashing and 2) ducks. It was pleasant just to be out there. FYI, it took a full three days for the swelling in my ankles to go down. Sexy.
- The National Archives. Ohhhh I loved this! It was really a humbling experience to stand next to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Now, I am full of pregnancy hormones, but I would’ve been a little choked up anyways. Our country is pretty imperfect, but I am still so proud of it, our ancestry, and proud to be an American. This was my favorite tourist thing that we got to see.
- We had a fun welcome lunch and training with Zero to Three and all the families that came. It was pretty cool to see a room full of people representing every state & D.C., hoping to help their legislators recognize challenges impacting children and families. One of the things that really struck me was the range of people. There were poor students like us, families who have always been in harder financial positions, middle class parents well into their careers, single moms, and a single dad. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all had experiences regarding our children’s development that we wanted to share..
- Due to a bus mishap, we didn’t get to see the Lincoln Memorial, but we got out to see the Jefferson Memorial (beautiful!) and the bus drove past the Washington Monument, the Martin Luther King Memorial, and the White House. So one day we’ll get back there when our kids are older and drag them around to everything. It’ll be great, they’ll love it.
- Throughout the day we met with Senator Cantwell’s office, Senator Murray’s office, and with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. It was neat to meet with these people and discuss what Zero to Three and “Think Babies” is all about, why the first three years of a child’s development are critical to their future success, what resources they have, and to get to share our experience with finding affordable childcare. Everyone was so kind and it was interesting to see what these representatives have done, are doing, and plan to do to address the needs of babies and toddlers. Of course we vote, but it felt really good to be a part of the political process in this way and talk to those elected to represent us. How many chances will we have in life to personally meet with our representatives and talk to them about the issues we care about? Such a cool opportunity that reminded me how important it is that our communities are civilly involved.
- At noon we met up with the whole group and people from the community at the Senate park to get ready for Strolling Thunder. People gathered with their decorated strollers and kids–it was a big party. There were some speakers there from Congress who are involved with these issues and then we took off on our march. It was fun to stroll around with all of these families, who–despite our many differences–all want a bright future for their children. I love seeing people gathered for good.
- After our meetings were over, we met in one of the Senate buildings for a reception with everyone involved with the event. The 51 families were there, Zero to Three staff were there, and politicians were there. Senator Murray spoke at it, so she came and found us since she couldn’t meet with us earlier in the day. It was fun to speak with her and introduce her to our daughter and briefly talk about why we were there. Also, I’m almost a foot taller than her, so our pictures are awesome.
- Oh, and Nigel Barker was at the stroll and reception (ANTM anyone?). When we got a picture with him, my daughter was sucking on her fingers and tried to shove them in his mouth. We do like to make an impression.
- My daughter was all about people on Tuesday. It was hilarious to watch her interact with the staff members, Senator Murray, and Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers. As we walked through the Senate and House buildings, she acted like she owned the place. She was waving and saying “hi” to everyone, giggling like crazy, climbing up every staircase she could, and generally just hamming it up for everyone. I love watching her brighten people’s days.
There was a lot more that went on, things we saw, and fun experiences, but this was my attempt at brevity. #NailedIt! I do have a few take-aways though.
Go for it! When I found out about this, I told my husband I was applying and he was like “Ok, do what you want.” It was a simple application and I didn’t really know if I even had a shot to be chosen. We were both surprised when I got a call two weeks later that we had been chosen. What a unique experience we got to have as a family that I’ll never forget! There is no harm in trying to do things, even if you end up not getting them. Sometimes you do!
You don’t have to agree on everything to work together. I’m pretty moderate in my political views, so there is plenty that I agree and disagree about with each of my representatives. It doesn’t matter, though. We work with people every day that we don’t agree with, I don’t know why we act like we can’t do the same with politicians. It’s appalling how much doesn’t get accomplished due to simply checking a different box on your voter registration.
Get involved. I said before that I’m proud to be an American, but I’m not blind to its flaws. We have to be involved if we want to see changes and maintain the good things that make this a wonderful place to live.
Some people won’t get it. Do it anyways. A local newspaper did a story about us going to D.C. There were only two people who commented on the story online and both said I wanted the best daycare but didn’t want to pay for it, shouldn’t try to support a family on a part-time income, and needed to have better family and career planning rather than ask for handouts. These were some of my initial thoughts on that:
I may have some anger issues…but seriously, I teared up a little. It hurt that these people presumed to know anything about me other than what was in a short article. It didn’t say that I work part-time because I’m also taking prereqs for grad school. Or that my part-time job pays better than a lot of full-time jobs because I do have a degree and a pretty bomb resume. Or that we also live off student loans, not just my income. Or that I wasn’t demanding to be in the best daycare, I just wanted one that was safe and wouldn’t park my kid in front of a TV all day for a thousand dollars a month, which is harder to find than it should be. Or that we waited a couple years before having kids because we planned for the best time and when we would have good insurance. Or that despite how many great plans I made, life happened and things changed.
So yeah, there will always be people who think you, your dreams, or your cause is something it’s not. Use their criticism to help you recognize obstacles and fuel your motivation to succeed. And don’t forget all the people who do support you. I told a few people at work where I was going, but someone had emailed that article to all the faculty and staff in the business school while I was gone and I had a bunch of supportive emails when I got back. My father-in-law tweeted it out from his business account, and also emailed it to his whole family. People at church have been asking me how it went. Not to mention all the good people I met in D.C. who were there for the same cause. Some people will already have their minds made up–regardless of reality–so keep working towards your goals.
Ok, I suck at brevity, but some things are important, so oh well.
Anyways, to sum up my experience with Zero to Three at Strolling Thunder, these are the top adjectives I would use to describe how I feel about it now:
Grateful. Inspired. Motivated.
Let’s keep thinking babies everyone!
**If you’d like more information about Zero to Three and the Think Babies campaign, you can follow them on Facebook and check out their website. Also, this link will take you to some ideas on how you can get involved with telling Congress to Think Babies.