I'm a parent. It's a weird role. Probably one of only a handful where your success is measured by you becoming redundant. The less 'required' you are when your child(ren) become an adult, the better you have performed. KPIs = Tick. But it's also a difficult role, one fraught with emotions. Mostly lovely, positive emotions, but there's also 'not so good' ones. The main one for me has been parental guilt. Not guilt for being too busy, but guilt for saying "no", ALOT. It has be overwhelming at times.
But today we had a light bulb moment with Ms 11, which has changed how I feel about these experiences and the baggage that comes with it. She has taught me, that no matter how much pester power or peer pressure there is, you really need to stick to your guns. Believe it or not, your home, and how you run your life within that home, plays a huge role in passing on knowledge and skills, and equipping your kids for life. Especially when it comes to sustainable choices. But you need to be consistent, so taking these beliefs into the outside world is a must, but is so difficult and you need to be bold.
In among a very extensive list of to dos, what we do as parents is normalise behaviour and attitudes. This might be to other people, to family, friends, to the local community or the wider world. We influence our childrens understanding of the world around them. We bring our own morals and ideals with us and it's a fine line to walk. It's one I've struggled with for 11 years. But I think (THINK) I may have done OK.
Modern society has often made me feel like a mean parent. As my kids have gone about their kiddy lives, wanting this, wanting that, I've said "no" countless times. I've increasingly started to cringe as I've said it, because I know essentially I'm pushing my values onto my kids, who are all innocent, footloose and fancy (and worry) free. It gets harder as they get older. Starting with washable nappies & wipes (a time in which they don't understand, or now, even remember) the issues have built as the little baby has grown and become a more complex being.
The 'No's' start to pick up pace as they become toddlers and really come fast and furious as they hit school age. I've had to take the hard stance on many exciting items and enticing experiences. Many are food or drink related = No you can't have slurpies with straws; heavily packaged junk food; fruit salad in a plastic container; takeaway bottle of soft / fizzy drink; bubble tea or the crisps made with palm oil. Others Nos relate to bigger issues = No you can't have party bags full of plastic tatt; cheap plastic toys from Kame-apart; fun promotional giveaways from supermarkets; cheap makeup & nail polish; showbags fullstop; or release a baby turtle into the lake to bring you luck (to be fished out and sold again at a tourist site)..... Abort Abort Abort. The list is endless and the guilt relentless. As is the whinging.
However, this normalising also relates to our home and our domestic behaviours, attitudes and habits. By seeing and doing, they are taught how to do 'things' and essentially, manage life. Monkey see, monkey do. But what is interesting is the ease of doing this in your own home. The key difference in these two normalising scenarios is one is outside in society and the other is in the sanctuary of your own home. Clearly it's a lot easier in your own home, away from the pressures of society. So we should take this on with great enthusiasm.
My kids don't bat an eyelid at using bamboo toothbrushes, because they've done it since they were tiny. There are a myriad of other patterns, like eating meals at the table, keeping shoes off the sofa, taking out food scraps to the chickens, eating leftovers for lunch, baking our own biscuits rather than buying them, having hand-me-down & second hand clothes, putting only dirty, smelly clothes in the wash bin (OK we're still working on this one), putting clothes on the drying hoist rather than in a dryer. This list goes on too. My kids only realised their bamboo toothbrush were different two years ago, when another child on a sleep over asked "what is that?". I've actively taught them how to brush their teeth and made a point of them doing it twice a day, but have never made an issue on the tool they use. Monkey see, monkey do. Since it came to light that this perhaps isn't what other families use, I've explained the factors involved in making the choice for bamboo. There was a bit of an eye roll.
But after our experiences this week and todays epiphany, I don't think there will be any more eye rolling. Well not on issues of sustainability, plastic waste generation in particular. I'm sure they'll be plenty of eye rolling on other issues once we get into the teenage years. I'm using the same approach with deodrant paste, and so far so good. We have had a momentous week in our house. Something has clicked within Miss 11. All of a sudden she gets it and I'm no longer bad cop. The mean mum. The weird mum. (Although I quite enjoy the last title). She sees me and what I do, very differently. I'm a person who is part of a much bigger movement. One that is growing and picking up momentum. More importantly we're not alone, there are others out there, that think and behave like us. And some of them are cool! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank #thewaronwaste for making me more normal in the eyes of my child. I'm also really proud of Ms 11 for being so open and energetic in her latest milestone. Your enthusiasm is electric.
So, this got me thinking about how the 'monkey see, monkey do' principle relates to home and the furniture and pieces within it. If what we do today normalises behavior for the future, then what do we need to consider? Appreciating and respecting a home and all that is in it, is a fundamental awareness that helps you on your way with the stepping stones of life. So what messages do we send as we make decisions about how we want to decorate our home? It's all about placing a value on items, which is very different to the price or cost.
On one end of the spectrum you have the regular replacement of furnishings as they become broken, unfashionable or just plain boring. Continually tossing out of furniture demonstrates how little value it has and how disposable it is. Very little appreciation or respect here. On the other end of the spectrum we have beautiful curated spaces, created often at great expense of it being a relaxed family home. Imagine as a child, not being able to sit on a sofa because its expensive and can't be soiled. It happens. I've seen it. Here we're demonstrating that aesthetics and illustriousness are more important than functionality and often quality.
As with many things in life, its about finding the balance and how you physically buy furnishings can set the value, appreciation and respect you want to pass on. You could go out, credit card in hand, trawl a few retail shops and buy that piece you'd like all within a few hours. On the other hand, you can research what you actually need, find local purchasing or manufacturing options, even design an item, or elements of it, yourself, and save up to buy it and watch it being made. Alternatively you could spend your time searching for the ultimate second hand piece. How you approach this and pay for an item is really important because money management is a life skill. It also (can) demonstrate beautifully how you can't have everything at a drop off a hat, and somethings you have to work for, or towards. In today's society it's a dying art. In addition the more you've had to save to get something, the more likely you are to care for it and look after it. You appreciate the quality. If a family has eaten baked beans for a month to get a new coffee table, that's been handcrafted by Jim a cabinet maker who lives down the road, they're going to treat it with a lot more care and appreciation than one that's been bought on credit from a faceless retail business and brutally delivered all packaged up by some other courier company.
Our role as parents is to normalise behaviour. If we want current and future generations to change how we as a society do things, then we need to start to show what that might be. And now. If that involves being purceived mean, then so be it. That's it, parental guilt no more.