This is the final installment in our series on the 2011 Texas Legislature and what it meant for kids and families. Although what we dubbed the “Mommy Mob Chronicles” ends today, we hope a new Mommy Mob tradition can take its place. Would you like to come together with fellow moms to bring change and improve things for kids? Do you have thoughts about what those events should be and what you need to make it happen? We want your input for future Mommy Mob events. Take 5 minutes to complete our survey and, to say thanks, we’ll send 10 randomly selected survey-takers “A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy Children.” This darling, calendar-style booklet contains lively art (like what’s below) to hang on your wall, plus great tips on young children’s development with a real Texas flavor—including helpful phone numbers and websites for families. Share your thoughts, and we’ll enter you to win.
“We made the rules!” That was the yell of glee from my 4 year old a couple of weeks ago as we left a hearing. We had come to the Capitol for a special session hearing to register support for a law that would ban smoking in places open to the public.
My two boys and I had gone over the day’s plans the night before. My 8 year old got the gist of our participation being about having our voice heard, rather than actually getting to pass a law. Both seemed to understand well the concept of laws – rules people have to follow. We talked about the rule that people were considering making as we walked the Capitol grounds from our car. We talked about how when people smoke in a closed place, even people who don’t smoke end up breathing it in—people who work there, pregnant moms, kids, everybody. Both said that seemed unfair and agreed with registering support for the ban.
While visitors to the Capitol are by no means infrequent, there aren’t many families at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. Children at the Capitol are generally there in school groups or with camera-laden parents: children go to the Capitol usually as tourists not participants. The ever friendly security personnel were particularly kind, and the people we passed in the halls gave us bemused looks. As we walked into the hearing, certainly heads turned. Legislators looked confused, some a little concerned, and others nodded kindly at me. My oldest son quietly took the card to register our position, I filled it out and returned it, and my youngest had the duties of returning the pen we had to borrow. Our demonstration of civic engagement and my professional obligation for the morning were all complete by 9:20 a.m.
What struck me as we left was what an oddity the experience was. It was clear that we had done something clearly outside the norm. I recollected the times I had witnessed children in hearing rooms. The times were memorable and infrequent—and usually well organized, planned events based on a particular family opting to publicly share their personal experience. I have never seen families popping in or just attending to witness the process.
Should it be so strange, amusing, and bewildering to have children in a hearing? Should it be a cause for pause when little people are in the hallways of our Capitol peeking in on proceedings rather than just looking at portraits? One of my favorite Capitol traditions is when a presiding officer acknowledges visiting members of the public during hearings or floor debates with, “This is your House. Welcome.” And isn’t it? It is our House, but only a fraction of the public is aware of “public hearings.” Legislators are our “public servants,” but often the public is intimidated to call upon them with concerns.
My little guy was wrong: we did not indeed make a rule that morning (the statewide smoking ban did not pass). But we did get our voice heard and made our presence felt. What happens in that big pink building, the decisions made by legislators from all across the state, impact every area of our lives in ways that are both monumental and intimate. Texas is our home, and in order to ensure it continues to be a place we feel is ours to live in and play in, we must make sure our Capitol continues to feel like our own as well.
Get started reaching out to your elected official: the latest Mommy Mob motivational contains a link to resources to help you make the connection. Also, please share your thoughts today by taking our 5-minute survey.
Written by: Eileen Garcia