Thursday, May 25, 2017

She Served as a Senate Page

There are so many amazing opportunities for kids these days. When they were little and I wanted to give them a diversity of experiences, I enrolled them in gymnastics, softball, aerial silks, ballet, horseback riding, Spanish playgroup, day camp at the science museum--anything to expose them to a variety of possibilities so that they could see what they enjoyed.

Now that they're older, the opportunities are just as diverse--they can audition to perform in an actual ballet, or a community theater production, or a real fashion show. I can enroll them in firefighter training for a day, and teen police academy. They can take summer science classes at our local university, and robotics classes at the local community college. They can take online classes from a university in New Zealand. There are writing circles. Chaperoned trips to big cities and even other countries. Whatever a kid is enthusiastic about, we try to make happen. Whatever she's not necessarily enthusiastic about, I encourage her to try out.

A day as a Senate page at the Indiana Statehouse was an opportunity that Will was VERY enthusiastic about. Politics and government have always been interests of hers (the Inside Government Junior badge was the first Girl Scout badge that Will completed independently, whereas I had to flat-out make Syd do it), and it's sometimes a challenge to find her enrichment activities in those areas...

...and I just spent the last half-hour falling down the rabbit hole of researching Model UN, and then I *may* have looked at pics of Princess Kate wrangling the child attendants at her sister's wedding. I'm back, though!

Anyway, yes, what was I saying? Girl Scouts! Girl Scouts have the BEST enrichment for politics and government! There's that Inside Government badge, and then the I Promised a Girl Scout I Would Vote patch that the kids worked so hard on in the fall, and opportunities to connect with global issues while earning the World Thinking Day and Global Awareness badges, and opportunities like this one, to serve as a senate page for a day. Of course, the page program is open to all kids of a certain age, but if you apply through the Girl Scouts, then you serve on a Girl Scout day, which means that all the other pages?

Girls, as far as the eye can see!

Syd and I had plans to have a special day to ourselves in Indianapolis, but first I wanted to tag along on the morning tour of the Indiana Statehouse. It had been a few years since we've toured it, so I wanted to refresh Syd's memory... and mine:

Syd sneaked up there with the big girls.

My favorite part was visiting the House and Senate chambers. Will was still pretending that her mother was not, in fact, present (hey, I was NOT the only mom tagging along! I was also not the only mom being flat-out ignored by her Senate page), but Syd, at least, hung out with me:

Unfortunately, the tour segued into the pages' first activity in the Senate chambers, so poor Syd was trapped without even an audiobook to entertain her while all the pages spent a solid hour brainstorming and creating a bill in committees, then proposing it for amendments and voting:

Although some of the committees proposed silly bills (my own daughter's committee proposed a bill that would allow pets to hold public office as figureheads. When I asked my child WHY they had suggested such a thing, she informed me that there is a cat mayor in Alaska. I googled it. There is. His name is Mayor Stubbs), the winning proposal, that all the pages then happily spent ages debating and proposing amendments to and then voting on, was a bill that menstrual products be sold tax-free.

Imagine THAT being proposed on a page day that wasn't all girls!

The kids had so many interesting things to say about this. One kid objected, on the grounds that if there was no sales tax on menstrual products, the manufacturers would just raise the prices because people were already used to spending that much. Another kid wanted to know how much money that sales tax brought in, and what the state would have to cut with its loss. Another kid wanted to amend the bill to say that menstrual products would be offered for free in public building bathrooms, including public schools and the Statehouse. It was a fabulous debate, with kids bringing up income inequality and fair access and the environmental impact of disposable menstrual products. None of them dismissed the idea outright, because all of them, ages 12 and up, knew, at least in theory, the physical and emotional and economic costs of menstruation, and I bet they all know, by now, as well, those same costs of being female.

Imagine that being debated on a day that wasn't all girls.

While I was watching this play out with stars in my eyes, my entire life's experience as female passing before my eyes and being contrasted to the experience of these kids, my younger daughter was lying prone on a bench next to me, bored out of her skull, hopeless despair in her eyes. At one point, thankfully, a gentleman from the office area outside the Senate chambers came in and engaged her in conversation. He gave her a pin, quizzed her on Indiana's state history (in Indiana, kids study Indiana history in the 5th grade, and this is apparently license for every public official and anyone in education to quiz any 5th grader they encounter about Indiana history. You've been warned), and then gave her a pin that she cherished and bragged about and showed off for the entire day:

She can now tell you what all of those stars stand for, so there you go. Indiana history!

After the debate, I managed to force Will to acknowledge that I was her mother just long enough to take this photo--

--and then the three of us had lunchtime free to eat and explore downtown:

Behind her is the Statehouse!
Afterwards, we dropped Will off for her afternoon Senate session--with the real, live Senators!--and poor Syd finally got the special time that she'd been promised. We painted that downtown red!

We did all of Syd's favorite things:
climbing on the limestone boulders by the canal
chasing leaves
looking at stuff
visiting the Indiana State Museum--museum admission was too expensive for me, but we saw an IMAX, and hallelujah, they had this activity in the lobby, and Syd fortunately thought that it was the best thing ever
trying to entice the ducks and geese that swim in the canal

There we go. Syd got her special time, and we picked up an exhilarated, inspired Will up after a busy afternoon with the Senate. And I drove two exhausted children home through rush hour traffic, put on my jammies, and pretty much read in bed for the rest of the evening.

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