Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thoughts & Convictions: Concerning Nature

When we were expecting Nolin, Paul & I began writing Thoughts & Convictions on Raising a Tiny Markham.   This was a document mostly for us so we could seriously think about & document the way that we feel we should raise children.  It is always a work in progress, as we learn & grow.  I thought I would share a few things that we feel strongly about.

Here is what we wrote about nature:
Nature is extremely important to us.  We want Nolin to be surrounded by and experiencing nature from the beginning.  We want to teach her that we share life with the world around us.  Nature is not here for us, but we are a part of it.  Nature gives itself to us and we must learn to give ourselves back in return.  Nature is beautiful and we hope Nolin will learn to appreciate it was much as we do.   
At every possible juncture, we want to substitute "toys" for things found in nature.  Natural things call forth our imagination in far more vibrant ways than items mass produced for human consumption.  It recently became clear to me (Paul) just how much adults shape the desires of children.  I remember my mom saying that, upon receiving a birthday or Christmas gift, I would quickly ignore the gift itself and spend my time playing with the box it came in.  Another way of saying this is that I was most interested in the thing that could become what I wanted it to be.  Only my imagination could limit the uses of a cardboard box.  I imagine how easy it would be to continually pull the box away from me and replace it with Elmo or some other gadget whose fullness has been predetermined by someone else.  I recall many toys on the farm being made of whittled sticks, bent metal, and stones I appreciated because of their unique shapes.  Among the earliest of toys I remember were a microscope and chemistry set, which I continually put to use analyzing things in nature.  Mass manufacturers are forever producing objects to stimulate a child's imagination, but nothing does this better than simplicity found in nature, which upon deeper investigation yields an infinite degree of complexity.  Among the greatest joys in life are discovering these complexities.   
Conserving the environment is very important to us.  We want to teach Nolin that we must all do our part - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  This is why we have chosen to use hand-me-downs as much as possible for Nolin.  We understand the importance of limiting production of items that are eventually going to fill the landfills.  Why no borrow or recycle items that a child will only use for a short period of time?  By recycling, we are also encouraging and expressing creativity.  Further, we are creating the opportunity to spend time together as a family.  For example, we can "create" a kitchen set for Nolin when the time is right, rather than purchase one.  This can be done with so many items and we look forward to all of the opportunities to spend time together as a family creating these things.   
We have purchased and plan to use cloth diapers for Nolin.  We want to use cloth diapers for several reasons.  First, we want to do our part in saving the environment and keeping the landfills from filling.  Second, we want to start teaching Nolin Leigh from early on, the importance of respecting the earth and taking care of our environment.  Third, cloth diapering will save us money in the long run.  Fourth, cloth diapers are super cute and colorful!
Clearly we wrote this when we were expecting Nolin, but we feel the same for all of our children.  :)

So how are we doing?  I would say we are doing okay.  We have really stuck to this in some areas, but not so much in other areas.

We jump at the opportunity to spend time outside with the kids.  There is nothing better than enjoying nature up close & personal.  When the weather is nice, we spend as much time as possible outside.  This past summer, we frequented the parks, the zoo, splash pads, & farms.  This fall we are looking forward to pumpkin patches & more farms.  Nolin absolutely loves being outside.  She can find sticks & rocks anywhere she goes.  One of her favorite places to be is on the farm.  There is so much to do out on a farm - animals to see, tractors to ride, trails to walk.  I imagine that Harris will love the outdoors as much as Nolin does.  I can't wait to see them both playing outside together.

When it comes to substituting toys for things found in nature, I would say we do okay.  By spending so much time outside, Nolin would rather play with a stick, a rock, or water, more often than she would like to play with a doll.  She also loves to play with boxes!  I don't know a kid who doesn't love a box.  :)  However, we have not created as many toys as we would like.  I have made a few homemade toys for Nolin, but I sadly do not do it often enough.  We wanted to make a kitchen set together as a family, but life got in the way.  I will say that we found a well-loved kitchen set to re-home at our place.  So we were able to stick to the hand-me-down idea.  Hopefully as the kids grow, we will find more time to create as a family.

Not only have we purchased a lot of toys second-hand, we continue to purchase a lot of the kids clothing as hand-me-downs.  We do a lot of consignment shopping for clothing & Harris is lucky enough to have older nephews to pass clothing on to him.

Now for the cloth diapers...well...we really used the heck out of them with Nolin.  The girl almost always had a big fluffy bum.  :)  I would say that we really got our money's worth out of them & she always looked adorable in them.  But, when it comes to Harris, I have failed in the cloth diaper area.  I was planning to use the same diapers on Harris, but became frustrated with the leaks.  I also find it difficult to change Harris' diaper every two hours as typically required by cloth.  When I go out with a toddler & a baby, I'm doing well to get us all back home sometimes!  I know...this is really just an excuse.  I have just fallen into what is easier in this area.  Every now & then I do use cloth on Harris when we are at home, but definitely not as much as I would have expected myself to do.

I have learned a lot from having two little's really worth another blog post.  But the biggest thing I have learned is that you can have a lot of big ideas, but sometimes life just gets in the way!  Honestly, most mom's are doing the best they can!


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