I have learned from observing my daughter that being a good mom has nothing to do with getting her to eat vegetables or having her sleep through the night. There is a difference that looms large between me and many other mothers I know, a difference quite akin to my work life as the Green Reaper. Rather than bothering with naptime and bedtime regiments, I was always much more concerned with teaching simple eco-conscious behaviors like recycling and reducing energy usage. My husband works his magic with her during reading and arithmetic lessons; I present kindly green lessons which were, in some form, taught to me through my own mother’s love.
Walk in Compassion: Compassion is defined as “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” It’s more than just that–Compassion is an attitude, a philosophy, a way of life, and sustainability is rooted in the basic compassion of being kind to others; a gift that keeps giving. I was taught to not hit, bite or call others names. Sharing earned a gold star because we all had more than we needed. Good things should be shared with everyone, especially if these good things can change at least one person’s life.
Breathe in Nature: Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy and eventually into sustainable patterns of living. My mother was inspired by Anne Frank, and in turn passed that gift to me. This was a passage written by Anne in her diary: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”
With Sofia, I created an expanded scope of concern for nature’s creatures. Those innocent looking soft plastic holders for soft drink cans and other products can entangle birds, fish and small animals. We snipped apart each ring before throwing it in the trash. We didn’t throw rice at weddings in order to protect birds that might pick up the grains and have their tummies explode.
Visualize the Future: My mother knew we needed to cut the meat habit for a more sustainable outlook, and that worked out just fine since it was already a built-in eco-trait of being Catholic–Sunday was pasta night. Momma was a fan of adding artificial bacon-flavored bits to give pasta more zing. Sofia and I turn off the faucets when brushing our teeth, rather than watching nearly 10 gallons of water slide down the drain, and there is no way we would leave the car running while waiting for someone. We turn down the heat; only wash full loads of laundry; set the freezer temps exactly between 0 and 5 degrees; always lather and rinse just once.
The most important way I am teaching her to visualize the future? Always say your prayers before you go to bed. No one gets out of here alive.