See what I did there? You’ve come to read this thinking I’ve been there, done that, and I can tell you all about my mini-activists, that collect freshly laid eggs each morning after their daily meditation. Gotcha!
Sadly no. Actually my kids would rather spend hours playing computer games than being outdoors, and they frequently tell me I love the environment ‘too much’ and I’m having a ‘hippie-fit’, amongst much eye rolling.
In fact, a lot of the time I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle. The values I live by at my house, are almost the polar opposite of their dad’s at his place. Just to put things into perspective, he has told them that if the Greens ever got into power, they would ban cars, close McDonalds and you wouldn’t be allowed to walk on grass (for reals). So an ally in my eco-crusading, I do not have.
Yet even though these things sh*t me to tears at times, in some ways it’s a blessing, as it leads to many interesting conversations. I have the opportunity to explain ‘why’, and ask where they stand on the spectrum of hippy-ness. It’s like a never ending ethics class. But more on that later.
Image by Sandra Henri.
Creating a mindset.
Personally I believe that before we can focus on specific actions, such as ‘naked’ school lunches, or second-hand organic cloth nappies, it’s important to consciously cultivate a mindset that is the foundation of eco-ethical living.
It’s about the process more than the end result. Environmental solutions are going to change over time as we learn, discover and evolve. Yet an ability to think critically for yourself, question ‘why does it have to be so?’ and ‘could we be doing things differently?’ are crucial for us to grow as a society.
We hear now that many of the jobs that exist today will have been automated by the time our kids are grown up, and that creativity will be a much more highly regarded skill set than ever before. After all, our children will likely spend their lifetime finding solutions to problems to we have created!
The strategies for creating little word-changers to me feels to be centred on:
- Thinking for yourself, and being confident in speaking up against the mainstream
- Making decisions from a place of empathy and the greater good
- Choosing gratitude as a way to curb overconsumption
- Developing a sense of agency and empowerment
- A sense of purpose that is intrinsically motivating
- Cultivating creativity to enable innovation
- Staying humble. No one likes a dick.
Image by Sandra Henri.
Let me introduce you to my besties. Ethan is the oldest, a sensitive soul who sits back to ponder and ask questions. Liam my youngest, totally destined for the stage, and giver of the best compliments.
I asked them how they rated themselves on a scale of tree-loving and world-changing abilities.
Tree-loving = 4/10
World-changer = 2/10
(its very unlikely and what if a super villain steals your powers for evil?)
Tree-loving = 10/10
(Trees are very useful to build things with)
World-changer = 8 and 3/4 /10
(Plans to live in a ginormous treehouse surrounded by trees, with a big slippery slide to the shops).
Image by Sandra Henri.
So here’s what I’m currently working on.
We live in a culture of more. More growth, more profit, more status, more stuff. There is only one problem with this, our planet can’t sustain this. We can’t buy our way out of over consumption, no matter how eco-friendly the product. This amazing article explains why.
Gratitude helps us wind this back. We have enough, we are enough. For example; I love our cosy little two bedroom cottage, easier to keep clean and we’re more connected. I live so simply that I have enough to share. I live frugally, so I get by working part-time.
I’d love to kumbaya around the dinner table to be honest, but the eye rolling prevents me from this. So instead I sneak gratitude into our conversations. One year we decorated our Christmas tree (a house plant) with little tags listing what we were grateful for. The themes were quite repetitive; family, quality time, love. The best things in life really are free.
Image by Sarah Black Photography.
Meet our fur baby Rosie. Seriously, it’s impossible to be grumpy when you cuddle Rosie. My boys have figured this out as well, and often when they are upset, the say “I neeed Rosieeeee”, who is always happy to oblige.
Ironically, bringing this meat-o-vore, giver of love into our lives, is what has swayed me towards veganism. I have a much deeper appreciation that animals share the emotions and intelligence of our children. It provides a great opportunity to talk about ‘would Rosie like it if we did that to her?’ Yet most importantly, Rosie brings out my little wildings’ nurturing, gentle and heart-led side, which our world is in such desperate need of.
Image by Ethan.
Ethics classes at school.
For those of you not familiar with Ethics Classes at your local public school, let me rave about them for minute. Ethics is offered as one of the scripture options, yet don’t let this fool you into thinking its a religious vs non-religious thing.
Ethics is actually about teaching critical thinking skills, in a thought provoking, non-judgement way. Each week, moral stories are discussed, and students are encouraged to consider ‘why’ they hold this opinion, and to see the story from various angles. We have a strict rule that there are to be no put-downs, and differences of opinion will be respected. This gives students an opportunity to speak out against the crowd, and think more deeply about why they might choose to act in a particular way. It teaches children to make decisions based on their own inner moral code, rather than blindly following social norms. We rarely reach a conclusion in these classes, the aim is to cultivate the thinking process.
Some examples of topics include;
- How do we display friendship?
- Do we stereotype without realising it?
- Would you share with your friends vs people you don’t know?
- Should animals be kept in captivity?
- What is inner and outer beauty, which do you value more?
- How can we be a conscious consumer?
Read more about ethics classes here.
I believe critical thinking is an invaluable life skill, that I wish was part of the regular curriculum! It is super rewarding hearing their wisdom expressed with so much conviction (and cuteness), and it feels like you are helping grow little activists. If you have time, I can highly recommend becoming a volunteer ethics teacher, or at the very least, jump on this free resource and get your kids involved.
Image by Sandra Henri.
Wishes do come true.
Around the time I started delving into the power in intention, I also noticed that my boys were actually doing their own co-creation without even noticing it. When Ethan was 5, much younger than the usual age where you start losing your baby teeth, he decided he really wanted to lose a tooth like his older cousins. So he wobbled his front tooth and wished for months on end. Then one day while he was eating an icecream, out it came! Ethan was thrilled! Especially so, as we were on holidays at the time, and someone had told Ethan that the Tooth Fairy pays double if you’re away from home.
Everyone keep asking me, did he knock it out, it’s very unusual to loose your top tooth first? But I’d already realised, no, he’d wished it out.
Then came the time we went to order our usual Friday night pizza, and the boys were bamboozling me into buying them a pizza each. We had a big argument that had me huffing and puffing my way to Eagle Boys, where no, I ordered only 2 pizzas to share between the three of us, thank-you very much.
But guess what happened? When we collected our order, they had accidentally made an extra pizza, which they gave to us for free, much to Ethan’s delight.
From then on in, Ethan was declared as official family wish-maker when we are in need good luck. As my favourite author, Roald Dahl says:
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”.
Image by Sandra Henri.
How can you make the world a better place?
Having escaped a very 1950’s style marriage, I have come to treasure the freedom to pursue my dreams and living with purpose. My kids have watched me fulfil my life-long dream of volunteering in Africa, then returning to question the wedding culture in which I worked as a photographer, and over time, creating Less Stuff – More Meaning. They have witnessed the baby steps required along the way, the failures and the perseverance. They will often hear me say ‘I was not put on this earth to cook and clean all day, get yourself in here and help out!’.
We also often talk about what they might do when they grow up, and what problems would they like to solve? Ethan would like to a bring extinct species back to life. Liam wants to make people laugh.
I’m writing this down, because when they are in a rut in a boring desk job, we might actually remember what they already instinctively knew as children. That they are here with a purpose, to make our world a somewhat kinder place than when they arrived.
My soul space – Malawi. Thank-you team ADRA.
Throw out the T.V.
Ditching TV was initially an act of rebellion, as I started afresh. But I have grown to love it! There is enough noise in my life, between work, social media, and children who say ‘mum, mum, mum, muuuum!’.
What I’ve noticed, is that my creativity has gone through the roof! I have so much more space and silence to allow ideas to grow, (which as an introvert, I treasure). I’d like this for my kids too, the space to use their imaginations, leaving electronics time as handy bribery or when Mummy really needs a nap ;-).
“I can’t get in the bath, I’m doing a Doomed challenge” Ethan.
Let them make their own choices.
Personally I lean towards the vegan end of the spectrum, while my boys are on the ‘but bacon’ end of the scale. So this equals a lot of whinging at dinner time. This is a typical supermarket conversation:
Boys: Mum can we get some normal milk please?
Me: You know I don’t like the cows to suffer when I can just get soy milk.
Boys: But pleeeease, we haven’t had it in ages.
Me: Mooooo, please don’t steal my babies just so you can drink my milk, moooo!
Boys: But it’s organic!
Me: Please don’t steal my organic babies, moooo!
Me: Oh ok, only because it’s the school holidays.
I’m tired, I’m worn down, but also I’d rather let them make their own choices. I grew up in the strictest of religious households, and the only thing that taught me was to never follow anything strictly ever again. So I choose my battles. Because…and this brings me to the next point…
Image by Sandra Henri.
Remember it’s all going in there, even when it seems it isn’t.
I have a beautiful friend Marian, who has 7 children. (I love saying that, because it makes me feel a little more sane ha!). Actually Marian is the most calm, relaxed mother I know, she has been through everything and knows not to sweat the small stuff. She is my guru of motherhood, always with an encouraging and reassuring word to say. Her older children are now in their twenties, and are seriously the most well adjusted, world citizens you could wish for.
She was reflecting to me one day, that “it all goes in”. Even though they want to rebel against you, the values you raise them with, will stick with them in the long run.
I know this is true, because despite their best protests, my boys will often proudly show me their solar powered space ship they built out of lego, or tell me how they have maxed out their virtual chicken coop on Egg Inc so it’s completely cruelty-free and free range.
So when my kids are telling me “Muuum, you’re having a hippy-fit”, I can reassure myself “don’t worry, it all goes in”.
By Sandra Henri
Founder of Less Stuff – More Meaning.
This is Marian = Super Mum. Image by Sandra Henri.