It’s a strange thing . You buy them all of these things for Christmas – even though you aren’t a Christian . And you know that they have already got enough . You try to find things that are at best ethically sourced ; at worst , likely to last past Christmas day and actually be played with , and then passed on , recycled . Yet even so , it’s hard . So much of what is ‘made for children’ (or should that be , for the buying , paying parents / carers ) is just awful . It is disheartening .
At school , recycling & ‘ healthy living ‘ are part of the curriculum . Forest School ( ‘ the outdoors as classroom ‘ ) is being introduced in more and more primary schools . ‘ Environmental Issues ‘ are on the classroom agenda for discussion . And Yet . When it really boils down to it , how can we teach our children that something more than lip service is needed ? Do as I say , not as I do – it strikes me that what we are saying in the classroom and what is being presented to them in their larger environment doesn’t add up .
‘ Reduce , Re-use , Recycle ‘ we chant – and then a quick trip down to Tesco – or indeed pretty much any any-town retail outlet – and the choice of goods on display is enough to make anyone say ‘Land fill ‘ . Items marketed at Children are often the worst culprits . The packaging , the plastic , the ‘made in somewhere a lot worse off than we are ‘ clothing – just what are we teaching our children ? Why should they listen to anything that we have to say ? When what we do is something else entirely ?
This is what bothers me : the lack of choice . I visited three main supermarkets today . I don’t like supermarkets at all . We grow as much of our own food as we can . We source as much of our food as we can locally , from local sources . But I still reluctantly find myself in one of ‘ the big three ‘ once a week , filling in the gaps . I doubt very much that I am alone in this . And I hate it . For many reasons .
I’d love to buy locally , exclusively , from small traders , from bakers , from farmers markets . Yet we have a farmers market once a month . And few local shops now , as the Big Three Juggernaut pushes relentlessly on , prices rising higher daily , choice of organic produce decreasing , if our locals are anything to go buy . I live in AnyTown , UK – this is how it is , I am pretty damn sure , for many people , if not the majority of the population .
I have noticed , lately , that Eldest isn’t bothered with toys , not really . We have been out and about over the last few days (school holidays) . Eldest has not ventured out without : her camera , a pen and a notebook . She is copying me I am sure , as little girls do copy their mothers . She takes pictures , and writes things down in her little book . She has started ‘ spotting ‘ birds , trees , butterflies , wildflowers , and likes to tick them off in one of her Usborne Spotter Guides as she sees them . It was I – Spy in my day . Not that I’m old or anything . Eldest says that I have to do it too , look and tick off . It’s important .
Over the last few days , out and about with my Eldest , we have shared some lovely ‘ nature moments ‘ . Several times Eldest has proclaimed out of nowhere that she loves being outdoors ; that she loves the outdoors , and that she’d ‘ rather be outside than inside ‘ . Several times Eldest has requested that we both ‘ sit down , just here ‘- and we have sat , mostly in silence just taking our surroundings in .
Sometimes Eldest tells me what she likes about where we are : ‘the trees ‘ ‘ the nature ‘ – and sometimes Eldest pays it the highest compliment – ‘ I’d like to live just here , forever ‘ . Other times . Eldest likes to run against the wind , giggling ; collect sticks and leaves from the floor and tickle my nose with feathers . Occasionally we find it highly amusing to post leaves down the back of Mummy’s top .
To be honest , I wasn’t that surprised by the camera / pen & book thing . Chip off the old block and all that . But I was surprised by me still being surprised by this on some , other , level . I realised that , unwittingly , I had expected too little of my Eldest , or indeed of ‘Children ‘ in general – this despite , knowing , on an intellectual level , how bright and cool and inquisitive children instinctively are .
I realised that I had somehow , somewhere , maybe through being surrounded by it all , bought into the idea , even just a bit , that children want and need all of these things that we as a society throw at them . Well they don’t . They are brighter , quirkier and more creative than many of us truly give them credit for .
The outdoors , and children , that’s a match made in heaven. Ask any mother at any bus stop about childrens Christmas presents , and somewhere along the line that well worn cliche of ‘ … and he just played with the box for two hours ! ‘ crops up . Yet still we miss the signs . Still we insist upon thinking outside of the box when we really need , for once , to be thinking inside it .
And still we keep buying them stuff that isn’t really doing much for them .
We nearly home educated Eldest , for various reasons . It would in many ways have been the easier option . I am trying to teach her , at home , the bits that school leaves out . I am hoping that this will give her a bigger picture , and that she will ask herself questions and seek out her own answers . But really , I just want her to Be Happy .
I won’t be buying as much this year . I am beginning to know what they like . And like any child , I am pretty damn sure , given the opportunity to play and be outside , in the wild , they like to do that . A lot . So we will be doing a lot more of that from now on , and a lot less shopping .