Sunday, July 6, 2008

July challenge: Green Parenting

Courtney and I have decided to dedicate the next two months of our blog to issues related to parenting and children since she is the new mom of a 2 year old little girl (Congrats!). Even if you are not a parent or your children are grown, some of the topics may apply to running a green household in general.

I remember when my youngest was a baby and I sat nursing her on the couch and contemplating my life. I looked around my living room and saw that my home appeared to be breading plastic contraptions-swing, bouncy seat, high chair, car set, play gym, mobile, crib, stroller, etc. All these things seemed so necessary at the time. It was true that the swing happened to be the only thing that calmed my daughter during one particularly hard night of the "evening fussies", but every other day it sat there taking up space because she, like most babies, preferred to be held rather than stuck in a plastic substitute. A common parenting guideline shared at the La Leche League meetings I attended at the time was "people before things". This was meant to be a guide as to what babies really need, but it has stuck with me as my children have grown and works well for green living and family budgeting as well.

Little by little these things were sold off at rummage sales only to be replaced by toys, sporting equipment, videos etc. I am amazed at how much stuff a child "needs". Obviously no child needs all this stuff, but yet in it comes....and keeps coming, faster than I can pack up the outgrown items to donate. I can blame part of this on the grandmothers, one who is an expert sale shopper and another who is an expert second hand shopper and both who adore my children. One Christmas I was sickened by all the stuff my children received so I counted the number of presents received (including 3 stockings each) and it was 99 presents. My daughter even said that she knew which grandma loved her more because that grandma bought her more stuff. People before things? We've made some changes since then!

I have to admit that I am partly to blame too. Rummage sale bargins are too tempting and I am a sucker for children's books and games, and apparently girls shoes! Today I had an experience that reminded me that I can be tricked by the cultural mantra of "gotta have it". Our family spent the day at Pike Lake State Park where we did some kayaking and swimming. I packed light and when I got there I immediately regretted that. Every child had an inflatable raft, a bag of sand toys or a ring toss game. My littlest asked, "Mommy, didn't you bring us anything?" I felt terrible at not having a brightly colored noodle for her to swim with. But I told myself it was a few hours and they'd be fine. Of course, they were. I was reminded that one can actually make a sand castle with only your hands, that splash war is a great game on a hot day and that children love having their bodies buried in the sand. We came home with a collection of beautiful rocks, snail shells and happy memories. Yes, "people before things" still applies.

This month we'll contemplate what it means to be a "green parent" and challenge ourselves to take it a small step further from wherever we are on our journey

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