Creating a sunflower with my amazing daughter
Musing on parenthood and climate justice
She’s riding on my back, I’m playing the trombone, and she’s being very patient. It’s a stunning day at the start of Autumn. There’s a big crowd; banners, flags and placards are waving. We’re half way through the American soul number, Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho (written by African slaves over a hundred years ago). We’ve just been joined on the Clarinet by another father and comrade who I’m increasingly amazed can manage to be involved in any struggle for change while being a parent of two kids. Today we’re at Frank Kitts park Wellington opposing the oil and gas industry.
My partner and I became parents in December 2016. We’d both been involved in the struggle for climate justice for a lot longer than that, but for me that was when it became real. Suddenly there was a person who I deeply love and care for who could be inheriting a broken world. That isn’t an acceptable option. But also we were unbelievably busy almost all the time.
This was a mammoth change which I still don’t think my friends and comrades who are not parents fully understand. I certainly didn’t beforehand. For the past year and a half our lives have revolved around our daughter. Life was, and still is, broken into units of time, strictly followed to make sure that everything which needs doing gets done. I get up, I have my shower, coffee is made, my partner gets up, the washing is put on, breakfast is made, our kid is woken up, my partner has her shower, the little one’s nappy is changed, her teeth are brushed (an ever changing challenge at the moment), she wants to play, we have breakfast, I dash off to work, my partner stays home to do a host of tasks before getting the kid to either Playcentre or child care or the library etc (and that’s just the morning). Then you add working towards climate justice, ending oil and gas exploration, working for a just transition for workers, band practice etc and life is pretty busy.
We couldn’t make the blockade of the summit on Tuesday due to only having a day’s leave, date changes etc. (Big respect for those up at 5am to take on the industry; I was up at 5am for a completely different reason). But we could make the rally the day before. I’d been feeling reticent about the whole thing. It’s odd to be involved in organising something you suddenly find you can’t attend. But it was great to be at part of it.
It wasn’t our kid’s first protest either. That was at Midland park when she was a week old. Her confidence and delight in the world is growing. At the oil summit in Taranaki 2017 she was clinging to us almost the whole time. Now she’s a toddler. I put her on the ground and she instantly runs off: playing and running under banners, banging on the doors of the TSB arena in front of the cops. There’s alot of things you can get away with as a little person which they won’t let you if you’re big.
Before I was parent I would be part of the speeches, chants etc and feel moved. Now I’m chasing my daughter around the place, getting involved for brief moments at a time in between nappy changes, getting her snack box, keeping her entertained and keeping her from running onto the roads. Oddly, all of the stuff I used to do easily means a great deal more now, but it’s also a great deal harder to do.
I now have a massive respect and awe for parents in general but also those parents who are working to make the world a better place. From unionists to teachers to environmental activists it’s amazing that people have gotten through, or are getting through, young parenthood and are still involved in the hugely important struggle to make things better. From the grandparents on the blockade lines at the oil summit to the solo mum of three who only just made it to the end of the sunflower rally, you are all amazing! Kia kaha and keep it up!