• Carmen Marie Fabio

Act like a child

“Keep it legal,” I usually tell my boys when they’re heading out the door to parties, going downtown, hanging out with friends, etc. It’s more tongue-in-cheek than anything – they’re not troublemakers – but one of those things I just have to say as a mom, like, “Be careful,” “Wear clean underwear,” and, “Text me when you get there.”

I watched with equal amounts of worry (I’m a mom, I’m hardwired to worry) and pride as they headed out last Friday to join the estimated 100,000 young people who congregated on the Island of Montreal to protest inaction on climate change policies. They got jostled, their feet got soaking wet, but they came home invigorated, not optimistic that they’d enact any immediate change, but with the realization that there really is strength in numbers and that young people, as we saw after the Maple Spring protests in 2012, can be a force to be reckoned with.

In my mind’s eye, I immediately conjure up images of people in their 20s and 30s wearing tie-dye and waving peace signs when I think of protest marches. I’m not that old but can’t help but think of movies and archival coverage of 1960s anti-Vietnam war demonstrations.

But many of the faces at last week’s protests were still freshly apple-cheeked making their message all the more impactful – their future is being threatened in a way previous generations haven’t had to deal with and it’s up to the grown-ups to grow up – now.

It’s a monumental challenge when you consider some of the messages being sent from what we’re seeing playing out on the world stage, particularly if viewed from a child’s perspective.

We try to teach our kids to be honest, work hard in school, study, play fair, you name it, all in the name of becoming ‘good people.’

At the same time, there are countless examples on the world stage shown to our kids that playing fair doesn’t work and that adults are in no position to postulate.

Influence can be leveraged, punishment for crimes can be negotiated or deflected (if you’re rich enough), and entrance to a good school can be purchased as opposed to earned. In fact, some of the very people who allegedly did the latter for their offspring include a co-chairman of an international law firm and a Silicon Valley private-equity executive who championed ‘ethical’ investing.

Closer to home, I’ve seen my own kids’ French immersion education compromised by teachers who had a poor – if any – grasp of the French language opting to just teach the courses in English, knowing their jobs were protected by their union.

I once read that punk music was the hippies’ revenge – that if the world policy makers wouldn’t listen to the hippies’ message of peace and love, they’d have no choice but to pay attention to the in-your-face anger of the punks.

I no longer tell my kids to ‘keep it legal.’ I tell them that sometimes, they have to step outside legal lines in order to do what’s right. I tell them to be careful, be respectful, but above all else, to protect themselves.