Tips for Navigating Large Crowds (Like the Women’s March on Washington)

Safely navigating protests, rallies, concerts, and other large public gatherings can seem daunting, with or without children. There’s a way to do it safely.

The Women’s March on Washington mission declares, “We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”

HEAR OUR VOICE.

Hear my voice. I want my voice to be heard. Not just in Washington D.C., but in my own house, too. I want my children to understand that I am passionate, strong, and resilient. I am more than their mother, I am more than a wife, I am more than just a friend.

It is important for my family to see me stand up and call out the injustices I see. It’s important for my children to hear me speak my mind, shout my thoughts, and peacefully protest the things I don’t believe in.

One day, they will be grown. One day, they will fight for what they believe in. Even if it isn’t what I believe in, I expect them to stand tall and be heard. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

For me, The Women’s March on Washington is more than Planned Parenthood, immigration issues, bullying, inclusiveness, or even Donald Trump. It’s about my personal experiences.

I am marching for every time someone said I couldn’t. I am marching for every time someone suggested I stay quiet. I am marching for every little girl’s right to be anything she wants to be. I am marching for every woman who has been beaten down, told she is worthless, that she doesn’t matter.

She does matter. She is strong. We are strong.

I am marching for the millions of women around the world who don’t have access to family planning, and the millions of women who aren’t allowed to have access to basic health care. I am marching against the idea that men can decide what is best for our bodies and minds.

These are my reasons. Hundreds of thousands of women and men are marching for their own reasons: Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA, disability rights, and so many others. We will come together to march as one. One group of people with thousands of different reasons.

Taking two five-year-olds to a highly publicized march involving thousands of people feels scary. It causes my mom brain an extreme amount of anxiety. I want my kids to experience the march, but I need them to be safe, and I want them to have fun. Since this isn’t our first time hanging out in large crowds, I have some methods to calm my nerves and keep my children safe.

Safely navigating protests, rallies, concerts, and other large public gatherings can seem daunting, with or without children. There’s a way to do it safely, and enjoy yourself, too. I’ve been taking my twin boys to events like these since they were four months old.

Admittedly, it was easier when they were babies. I wore them, so I always knew where they were. This also prevented them from being touched by strangers, and it was easy to protect their ears from loud chants, audio, or sirens.

Older now, my boys willingly walk side-by-side with me in large crowds. They know the rules and expectations I’ve set. Even though they’ve accompanied me since infancy, I still reinforce the rules before we arrive. We often talk about why the rules are important and discuss the consequences of not following them.

As much as my kids have to follow my rules, I need to be aware of their cues, too. There have been times when they just weren’t having it, so we left. It happens. Taking quiet breaks and stopping for snacks usually helps, but sometimes, it’s just best to leave. Not all events are for children.

Here are some tips to safely and happily enjoy exciting events and large crowds with your kids:

Safety in numbers

When possible, adults should outnumber kids. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s always nice to have extra eyes on the little ones.

When we do outnumber the kids, I share the expectations I have for my kids as well as the best ways to help them follow through. Communication is key in large crowds.

Bright colors

I make it a point to dress my children in bright or neon colors the day of the event. We use bright hats and gloves for the winter months and neon tee shirts for the summer months. I can easily spot them in a crowd.

I also wear bright colors; there’s nothing scarier to a child than not being able to find his parents. I make a point to review what we’re all wearing and how to explain our clothing to other event-goers if separated.

Tattoos

Normally, I don’t advocate for small children wearing tattoos. But temporary tattoos that include parents’ contact information is a great idea. Safetytat offers a couple different ways to ensure your information stays with your child in case she gets lost in a crowd.

These are especially useful for small children who haven’t yet memorized your full name and phone number. Likewise, children with disabilities or medical conditions such as food allergies may not be able to communicate clearly or verbally.

Wagons, strollers, and carriers

Let’s start with wagons. I love wagons. Large crowds tend to give you more space with a wagon and your children have a 360-degree view of the world around them. You can store snacks, water, diaper bags, extra clothing in them also. But wagons are not fun on public transportation, they’re not easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and they don’t fold up for easy storage.

Strollers are much better at maneuvering through tight crowds (unless you have a double stroller like we did), but your children won’t have unobstructed views and may not be as engaged.

If you can wear your baby, do that. This keeps your baby close, keeps strangers hands away, and your baby will be comforted even in loud crowds.

Rules of engagement

Even though my boys have been going to rallies, parades, and other crowded areas for as long as they can remember, we revisit the rules every single time. I make them repeat them back to me and tell me why they are important.

Upon arrival, we decide on an appropriate meeting spot. Usually a large, centrally located tent or police van works well. While we are waiting in line, for example, we discuss what to do in the event that someone gets separated, who to ask for help, and precisely where to go if we can’t find each other.

I remind them not to panic and to speak in a loud voice so people around them will hear. If for some reason they can’t find a police officer, I always tell them to look for another mom with kids.

Things to bring

In addition to all the stuff you’ll need to feed, clothe, and keep your kids entertained, I always bring the following:

  • Noise canceling headphones. Sometimes it gets loud.
  • Extra layers of clothing, including mittens, hats, and sweatshirts for the winter months and long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks, and an extra pair of shoes in the summer months.
  • An umbrella and ponchos in case of rain.
  • Sunscreen.
  • A cell phone charger.

Things to remember

Always check the event’s website before you go. Some events restrict backpacks, liquids, among other things. The organizers want to make their event as safe as possible, and the rules will reflect that.

Be sure to know where to park before you drive there. Map out public transportation routes or download apps like Uber or Lyft. Double check train and bus schedules for weekend or holiday routes and times.

If you are attending a walk or march, map out the route and make a mental note of designated bathrooms. Also take note of first aid tents and where the closest hospital or emergency services are located.

Check to see if the event offers a quiet space for nursing parents or a play area for small children.

If you’re taking a stroller with air tires, make sure to pump them up before you go. Check all baby equipment for safety and function.

Bring some cash. Not everywhere accepts credit or ATM cards. Put your cash in a separate place other than your wallet. Pickpockets tend to target large crowds, and you never want to be without cash.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Don’t have expectations. Try to let the day flow, and listen to your children’s cues. The day is meant to be fun for everyone.

Posted on Categories Advice, Analog Life