|Beyond the Consulting Room - Page 10|
Linda, her parent-educator colleague, and I had coffee. We invited others to the next coffee, and then to a couple of house meetings. Before long, we'd organized Birthdays Without Pressure, with a mission to start a local and national conversation about out-of-control birthday parties and to offer alternatives based on parents' experiences. We did one-to-one interviews in the community with parents, professionals, even party-store owners. I talked to my media connections from the overscheduled kids project and found quite a lot of interest. After a year of meeting every two to three weeks to analyze the problem and develop our message, we held a public rally in January 2007, which was attended by 180 parents and covered by USA Today, ABC, and local media. We launched our website that day too.
The response was so strong that our server had to be upgraded to handle the volume. For the next month, the parents and I did hundreds of media interviews with journalists and TV and radio shows all over North America and three other continents. We were on message and working our mission to raise awareness and pass on strategies that worked for real parents who wanted to resist the competitive culture of childrearing today. When it was over, we had a small party and ended our project, which now exists as a website where parents get information and contribute to the message board. And we still do a media interview or two each week. Recently, the Tehran Times in Iran ran a story about out-of-control birthday parties and our citizen-parent project in Minnesota.
Projects like Birthdays Without Pressure have an afterlife through the development of citizen-leaders—again, a classic principle of community organizing. Linda Zwicky and her fellow parent-activist Julie Printz from the birthday group went on to start a project dealing with the problem of the sexualization of young girls in today's culture. For this project, which will go public in 2009, I'm coaching a local community professional to lead the process with Linda and Julie. Stay tuned for what a group of empowered St. Paul mothers will do and say about what's happening to our daughters in a Bratz Dolls world.