When I was a teenager in the late 1990s, I thought I was born in the wrong time. In my mind, I should have been coming of age in the 1960s, the height of the Civil Rights era. I imagined myself as a fierce crusader for the rights of others, on the front lines of the marches and sit-ins to confront white supremacy.
Dear Lord, I was a fool.
Admittedly, that’s pretty common among teenagers. But this was a special kind of foolishness. One that seems especially relevant in this rather terrible time in our nation’s history. This past weekend, a white supremacist plowed a car into a group of anti-racist protestors. There are three people dead (one protester and two police officers in a related accident) and many others in the hospital.
To me, this incident highlights how ignorant I was back then and yet how common my views still are. My naivety illustrates everything about why white parents need to talk to their kids about white supremacy. (By which I don’t mean just the literal Nazis, but also the cultural aspect of valuing white people and white culture above all others.)
Reading a party invitation, I look up at my husband and ask, “Whose turn is it this time?” We both struggle to remember who went out last. In the end, we just pick one of us, figuring that even if it’s wrong, it’ll work out in the end. And it always does. Paying a babysitter would be easier, but we’ve never gotten around to hiring one.
While we’re too busy to have extensively vetted a babysitter and too cheap to pay one anyway, we’ve remained committed to seeing our friends on a regular basis. Here’s some of the ways we’ve managed to maintain those relationships, our wallets and our sanity:
“So now we can’t eat mac and cheese. Is there anything we can feed our kids?!” That was the cry heard across the land from moms and dads who read the Scary Mommy or New York Times articles on phthalates in mac and cheese. Both of the articles are based on a report put out by a coalition of environmental groups concerned about toxic chemicals in processed food. (If you want to be super data-geeky, here’s the actual data.)
“Where do you want to eat?” Anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with their family has faced this question, probably followed by a drawn-out conversation about likes, dislikes, convenience, and whatever dish you got there last time. If you have young children, you may automatically exclude whole categories from consideration. You may never even consider bringing kids to ethnic restaurants and others without children’s menus.
But if you’ve always longed to check out that new Indian place but don’t want to spend money on a babysitter, there may be hope. It’s actually easier to bring kids to restaurants that don’t specifically cater to families than you think.
While it may seem intimidating, I’ve successfully brought my toddler to restaurants that specialize in a variety of cuisines, including fancy Italian, Ethiopian, Peruvian, and Japanese food.
Here are a few tips that can help:
As a child, I’d spend hours in my backyard poking around in the dirt. I’d pretend specific plants were magical and “mix” up concoctions. I could be alone with my imagination, whether under the giant pine tree or next to my mom’s garden bed.
But our yard doesn’t offer the same experience for our kids. It’s on a corner heavy with foot traffic and no clear place for them to play in the dirt. So I wanted to make them one – somewhere that was set-aside, just for them. After more than a year of planning – raising a new baby took a higher priority – we finally started building it this spring.
The children’s garden isn’t anything complicated. While there are some amazing outdoor play spaces on Pinterest, we had neither the space or need for anything that elaborate. We just wanted to build something that could hold some dirt. It’s really just a box. Or in fancy garden terms, a raised bed children’s garden.
As I scrolled through Facebook the day President Trump announced America was leaving the Paris accords to address climate change, I couldn’t do anything but sigh and shake my head. As a long time climate change activist, I increasingly identify with the climate scientists sinking into despair the same way the West Antarctic ice sheet is. As there was nothing else I could do, I posted a screenshot of the Weather Channel that made me laugh. That evening, I stood out on my back deck, stared at the stars, and wondered what the hell we’re doing to our children’s future.
“Mommy is going to let the people in charge know that we need to respect all people,” I told my son on the morning of the Women’s March. While I’ve been politically active for a long time, he never really knew about it. Because I so rarely miss weekend time with the kids, I wanted to let him know what I was doing and why it was important. As I and two of friends gathered snacks and pinned posters on our jackets, seeing my kids reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.
Explaining what’s going on is even more important if you’re bringing your kids along to a political event. In the case of the People’s Climate March, I knew that I had a responsibility to explain to Sprout why he was there.
From explaining why I’ve missed dinner to testify to our City Council to marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, here’s what I’ve learned about introducing kids to activism:
So proud of my munchkin.
“You’re not going to bring the kids to homeless shelters are you?” asked my husband, several years before we had kids. “Probably. We need to teach them how to help people.” He most likely rolled his eyes. But now after being married to me for a decade and living in the Age of Trump, he understands. Which is why all four of us were out in the sweaty heat this past Saturday walking in the Washington D.C. People’s Climate March.
“What does being a green parent look like?” is something I ask myself a lot and struggle with. It’s what’s behind my Green Moms Profiles and potentially the topic of a book project.
Thankfully, there are some good resources to help us be a greener parent, no matter where we are in the process. A lot of “green parenting” resources focus on health issues specific to your particular family, like cutting out plastics or chemicals in your soap. While those have a valuable place, I’m more interested in the larger scale issues, like conserving energy and minimizing greenhouse gases. While these resources aren’t all specific to parents, I think they’re all useful!
Photo courtesy of The Green Mama.
For our final Green Moms interview, welcome Manda Aufochs Gillespie, otherwise known as the Green Mama. She’s got two kids, who are ten and almost seven. Perhaps most interestingly, she lives on a remote island off the west coast of British Columbia in Canada. She blogs at The Green Mama, which you can also find on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
As this interview was over the phone, I’ve edited it a bit for clarity.