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(en) US, Vermillion, South Dakota, The Fall Great Plains Anarchist Network Caucus from a Parenting Perspective

Date Sat, 03 Dec 2005 12:52:00 +0200

I'm writing this piece because I rarely hear how anarchist
conferences or gatherings (that don't include militant direct action
or some sort of protest activity) go after they happen. There's
always a good deal of media before an event to get people there, but
little is written afterwards. I've had even more trouble finding
people's perspectives on how childcare, personal bonding or networking
went. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that protest action
is sexier than who played with the kids. Similarly, certain activities
are seen as more important and thus more glorified and covered than
others; activities which oftentimes fall into traditional gender roles.

So, here is a reportback from an anarchist gathering that did not
include any illegal activity nor any public protest, at least while I
was there.
GPAN (Great Plains Anarchist Network) is a networking tool for
anarchists in the Great Plains. The
contingent I was a part of had never been to a GPAN function and we
hadn't really ever worked with other Great Plains anarchists for that
matter. So, we tried to go into things with little to no
expectations. My partner and I brought our 3 year old with some
reservations but from the description of the schedule it sounded like
activities were being planned for kids and that childcare would be

Just the fact that announcements promoting the caucus stated that
there was childcare made this gathering a possibility for us. Usually
if we can't find any information regarding kids we just chalk it up to
yet another thing that just isn't doable for us right now. So, if you
are planning an event and feel like it's important to have parents
there it's very important to mention that childcare will be available.
If you don't know any families that are coming or don't anticipate
their attendance, you can still post something such as: "For
questions regarding childcare call this number."
Maybe no one will take you up on it, but it's a good habit to
develop. Hopefully this relatively young movement will see more
parents and families in the coming years that will take you up on this
Once you have put the childcare offer out there (like the SD
Radicals did) I think it is very important that whoever is working on
this get in touch with any families coming. I prefer a phone call,
but everyone's different. Some kind of direct contact is important.
Families and kids are so diverse that simply designating people to
be "childcare" will probably lead to some problems. We all have a
whole spectrum of needs, interests, abilities, etc. The childcare
needed for an infant is much different from that of a toddler or 5 yr
old for example. Even with kids at similar ages the care given can
vary. For example, is the kid vegetarian? What are their interests?
Painting? Tag? Banging on pots and pans? The better you know the kids
the better you can plan childcare that best suits their unique
qualities. This is one thing that did not really happen. I talked to
organizers via email but they didn't have very clear ideas of what was
going to happen as far as kids were concerned. We also never talked
directly with the person in charge of childcare, who also ultimately
didn't come to the conference. We'll get to that later though.


When we got to the conference we were all amazed at how warm and
welcoming people were. We knew a grand total of two people before the
conference but the GPANdas we didn't know were very nice and very down
to earth. They played with Obsidian and acknowledged him when he
spoke to them, which is huge. People who respect kids get my respect
in return. It was great. The organizers were the same- very warm and
outgoing. This is more than I can say about most other anarchist
functions I have attended.
The original idea for the caucus was to camp out, but a freak
rainstorm ruined those plans. We moved camp inside to an old church
turned arts/community space.
It worked out pretty well in the end. The kids camp did not end up
happening and that is of course understandable, though I am suspicious
of what was actually planned for that because in its place came
basically nothing in the way of childcare. My understanding is that
the person in charge of providing childcare totally flaked and didn't
even show up to the caucus. I will say that some of the organizers
were very kind and concerned with the situation and of course it's
hard to adjust to someone just totally dropping out, but in the end
more could have been done. Like usual, it ended up being us, the
parents, finding people to watch Obsidian.
This really isn't a huge problem, in fact we're used to it, but it
is frustrating when we come in with expectations that childcare will
be taken care of at least to an extent and then it isn't.
Childcare ended up being us putting out general requests to caucus
goers for help before the beginning of each workshop or event planned.
This is what we usually do when there isn't childcare at an event.
Also like usual, it ends up being a handful of wonderful people taking
on childcare for the majority of the event. In this case it was
primarily three people that stepped up- two women and one man. To
those three- you are incredible and true allies, understanding the
meaning of the often spoken words of "solidarity" and "mutual aid."
Between those three and a bit of help amongst a few others, Whitney
and I rotated being with Obsidian ourselves, which is also usually the
reality of things. This can be a bit stressful and it gets old trying
to get people to do things. Now, this always brings up
misinterpretations of us as parents.
"Don't you want to spend time with your child?" Some might think.
Of course we do. But we don't have to drive 10 hours to spend time
with him; we can do that at home. When we go to a conference we go
there with the intention of doing what the conference was intended
for: building friendships, sharing skills, developing strategy, etc.
We usually do end up spending a good amount of time outside of
workshops and meetings to be with our kid, just because we miss him
and he misses us but we do want to be able to attend things as well.
Also, we don't expect people to take care of us completely, we always
want to help out with childcare ourselves and make accommodations to
other families.
So, back to the conference- Though ad hoc and improvised the whole
time, it ended up working out ok. People did step up (albeit only a
handful) and hang out with Obsidian for a pretty good amount of the
caucus. We were able to go to most of the things we wanted to go to;
however, but as was mentioned earlier the help we got was from the
same people, mostly women. This is something I have seen at every
gathering I've been to. To the men that watched Obsidian- you fucking
rock. Men spending time with children is one of the best ways of
challenging patriarchy, both within yourself and in the child. When
Obsidian plays with almost all women and sees the men off having their
meeting he learns that men are not nurturing and that their role in
kids' lives is as a distant disciplinarian as well as the one who
makes all the decisions.
So, the lesson here is that if you plan childcare, actually plan it.
At least put up a big piece of paper with time slots for people to
sign up for. When people sign up, notice who is volunteering.
Encourage men, singles, others who generally do not help with
childcare to try it out. (side note: of course, some people just
aren't comfortable in this role and I respect that and don't want
someone watching my kid who is going to be resentful of it. At the
same time if you are uncomfortable around the kiddos, that's probably
something you should be examining and figuring out why that's the
Despite talks of other families coming, Obsidian was the only kid.
For that reason we don't expect some grand, elaborate kids' agenda,
but we do think that things could have been planned more. Organizers
also could have helped by bringing art supplies, books or other
activities for him. I think all of us but Obsidian were sick of duck,
duck, goose by the end of the weekend. If there had been other
activities for him besides the few we brought along (we would have
brought more but we were told that it would be taken care of) he could
have had more personal play time, offering breaks to the few doing
So, in the end, the kindness and generosity of the people at the
caucus made our time there a really positive one and we'll definitely
be making it to the next caucus if at all possible. . The anarchist
parenting workshop was the best attended one Whitney has ever lead.
Along with many people coming, there was also a good representation of
people from different background regarding kids and parenting.
Usually it's just a handful of parents that come to these workshops.
Along with other parents there were also single people, roommates and
close friends of parents and also people who recognize that they are
uncomfortable around children and wanted to start the process of
changing that. Everyone who attended was thoughtful and genuinely
interested in the topic. It was very inspiring to see so many people
truly reaching out to us and other parents and kids.
Also, I know that the organizers worked very hard to make the event a
successful one and I think they did, but there were definite flaws as
far as the inclusion of families is concerned. I do appreciate the
effort people made and the dedicated few that played with Obsidian and
helped us out. These things don't necessarily come naturally to
non-parents and so that's why I am writing this. It comes from a
place of love and a belief that within GPAN we are working with people
who care about these issues. I think this is maybe more important
than anything- that people there really wanted to know what to do to
make the caucus more inclusive. I'm hoping this essay is one way of
holding up my end of that commitment. Thank you to everyone who
helped in one way or another and to everyone that made us feel
included. May anarchist events continue to improve and grow to bring
in people of varying privileges and backgrounds.
Love and solidarity,
Clayton, Whitney and Obsidian
Clayton Dewey <claytondewey@gmail.com>
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