“President Obama, I know you have two daughters. I know you love them. But I want you to know that I don’t know if I’ll have kids. That’s because I don’t know if they’ll have clean water to drink,” said Eryn Wise, a 26-year-old organizer of the movement against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. As she stared out at the crowd gathered in front of the White House, I gasped just a little. Of course, I know this is a calculation women make every day – whether the world they would bring their child into is good enough. And too often, that answer is no. But to hear a young woman say it in person made me breathe in just a little more sharply.
That's because it’s a question I've never had to face.
My privilege protects me and my sons from so much. I'll never have to worry about my boys being shot by a police officer because of the color of their skin. The location of my son’s summer camp hasn't received bomb threats from anti-Semites. We'll never be afraid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement banging on the door to deport their father or grandmother. Our middle class income makes it easier to move if our region experiences flooding because of climate change.
But there are so many moms and children lacking those privileges. It's only by luck that my kids were born into the circumstances they were.
But what can I do?
Looking at the hundreds of emails imploring me to sign this petition or that, I want to delete them all. Reading my friends' worries that their children with cancer won't be able to get health care in the future makes me close my eyes. Scanning articles about the protections that the administration is stripping away from kids tempts me to never read the news again.
Instead, I try to listen and stand with the families who have the most to lose.
I march with the Native American teenagers dancing in ceremonial costumes down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House. I implore my city council to declare our town a sanctuary city where the police aren't responsible for enforcing immigration policy. I call my state representative to encourage local schools to protect trans kids. I post on Facebook about teenagers who are planting trees and reaching out to immigrant classmates. I throw parties where my friends worried about their kids and future can either commiserate or talk about anything other than politics for a little while.
Even though I'd like them to, none of these actions will save the world. I know I can't make the world perfect for my own sons, much less for all children.
But I hope that each of them brings us a little closer to a world where all children can have the privileges my sons do: knowing that they are safe and loved for who they are. I hope that as my sons grow older, these actions will inspire them to help our community and country be fairer and kinder than ever before.
That's the least I can do as a mom.