I’ve been an activist my whole adult life. I’ve advocated on issues of peace, social justice, environment, toxic chemicals and more. When I found out I was pregnant I saw it as raising the next generation of activists. Not only was I going to keep advocating on behalf of these issues because it’s the right thing to do, I was going to do it to teach my daughter the importance of doing so. I was going to do it to so it would be a normal, natural part of her life that, hopefully, she’d carry on into adulthood. And, for this reason it was important that advocacy, purchasing decisions and education be a part of her life right from the very start. In fact, we gave her the middle name “Justice” so she would always know what values were important to us and what we hoped she would strive for.
But, how do you teach a 3yo about how your decisions affect the environment? We would talk about why we do the things we do, like using our own shopping bags instead of the plastic ones from the store or not releasing balloons into the air. We read lots of books on the subject. But, for my daughter it was just a story. It was imaginary. She couldn’t really connect with the message.
Then one day my husband was showing her videos on You Tube. She has a natural affinity for music. It’s the best way to calm her down during a tantrum. It’s the best way to get her to sleep. It’s the best way to teach her something. It’s also her favorite way to entertain herself. When my husband showed her the Earth Song video by Michael Jackson, she was profoundly moved. The first time I saw the video myself I was concerned that he was showing this to our then 3yo. The video is a bit graphic, but not inappropriately so. I was concerned that she was too young to see it, to understand its message and to see the pain and sadness. But I was wrong. This was the day my 3yo became an environmentalist. She was so moved by the video that she kept asking me why the people were so sad, and why people hurt the animals and the earth. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to her about how the decisions we make affect the environment, animals, and our community.
Now when I tell her I don’t want a straw with my drink because I don’t want it to hurt an animal, she understands what I mean. She has a compassion for the world around her I’m not sure I could have taught her in another way. Now, she – at 4 years old – wants to be part of the solution, not the problem. And it’s so much a part of her being now I have no concerns about the message sticking. Every day now we build upon that message as we talk about why we can’t buy strawberries today because they don’t have organic; or why she can’t have the small juice box when we have larger containers of juice and reusable glasses at home. It’s been an unexpected blessing.