Goodie Bags and Other Green Parenting Dilemmas

5 years ago
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This week my kids collected quite a haul of plastic 'stuff' and lived a very non-ecofriendly life with their friends and it challenged me as parent. When my daughter started to cry wanting to drink out of the toxic water bottle she got from the gymnastics studio we went to for trial class it hit me... I have to deal with not being like everyone else.

Like many parents these days, I am tuned into eco-friendly living. I have been blogging about it for years and paying even more attention to it when I became a parent over three years ago. Up until now I have been in the driver’s seat with no questions asked. When I did not want my daughter to drink out of plastic I got glass baby bottles and stainless steel sippy cups, what did she know?

Now I am confronted with a chatty 3-year-old who has older cousins that she spends a lot of time with that have taught her how to articulate her “needs” in a mature way (please sense my sarcasm). So when the cute 16-year-old girl at the gymnastics place thought she was going to get me to sign up for 40 weeks of over priced classes by handing my child a toxic plastic water bottle, I realized my life was about to change.

I did what most parents do when faced with a parenting situation they did not anticipate. I said you cannot drink out that cup, "because I said so." We have all said it and we know it does not work. We remember our parents saying it to us and we swore we would never say it. So I moved on to the other parenting trick of distraction: "Let's go home and see your brother and Dad are doing. I wonder what they did while we were gone?" That worked for the drive home.

Then we got home and it started again. I mismanaged our six-minute ride home to talk about the class and not think about my next reason why she could not use it. Luckily, I was standing conveniently in the kitchen, so I said, "It is dirty I have to wash it with your school stuff tonight." End of story, for the night.

Once I got her to bed, I started thinking, 'What I am going to tell her? How am I going to deal with this new dynamic of parenting? When we go to the birthday party this weekend and we have to deal with the plastic junk in the goodie bag, what will I do?'

First option: Just say No! I am not a great lecturer so I am not going to be able to stop this flow at the source. I applaud parents who are able to look a fellow parent in the eye at a birthday party and say "no, thank you" to the goodie bag that Mom obsessed over creating.

Image: MaggieRDA via Flickr

To me, the damage is done, the items are purchased, this family worked hard to make a fun day for their kids and they are just about to cross the finish line. I also do not think this would completely solve my parenting dilemma, there will still be tears. I now know these items will be in our possession, unless we get to say goodbye without having to take a bag. I have successfully done this twice, so doing some rough math I think that gives me a 2 percent success rate... not saving the planet with those stats.

I thought about it and here is what I need to do:

Educate my kids about the environment.

As they continue to grow I can teach them more and more about our life choices and how we can help the planet. Right now I use books to teach them about conservation and environmental practices but as they get older I can do more age appropriate things.

Model a green lifestyle.

We use stainless steel sippy cups, we always bring our reusable bags to the grocery store, we eat whole organic foods, and we did not give out anything plastic at our birthday parties in addition to tons of other things. By walking the walk and talking the talk I show my kids why this is important

Make it fun and cool.

It is a lifestyle and I need to make sure I do not make it a duty and obligation that breeds rebellion when my kids get older. 

Do not make it something that separates.

Just like teaching my kids to be inclusive of other faiths or other things that could be defined as differences. I want my kids to understand that some of our friends and family do not make the same choices we do.

So what happened? She woke up the next day and never asked me about it again. But it only took two more days till she received another plastic cup but this time it had Mickey Mouse on it and was marked BPA-free. Luckily, that was visibly too dirty to use immediately, so I dodged another bullet.

I am ready for the next time my parenting is tested on why we do not have some of the cool things their friends have. I know there will be tears and other times when my kids will understand and not want non-ecofriendly stuff that comes their way. I like to think the parents that live a different lifestyle than us are also met with this dilemma after seeing our awesome stuff.

We have the first of many more birthday parties this weekend so it will be the beginning of taking my own parenting advice and putting it into practice. Maybe I can make it one more week if the parents live an eco-friendly life like us.

How do you deal with your kids when they want to do something that is against what you are teaching them?


Leigh is a mother of two young children and write two blogs Green-4-U with green living tips for the average person and What I Want My Kids 2 Know, a blog she writes to her two kids with advice, stories from her childhood and other funny things. You can follow Leigh on Twitter @Greenforu