Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday Club: Passing on my values to my children

I haven't blogged much this past week, but the Friday Club prompt is ‘Ethics and activism’ which is very me, really.

We're not what I usually consider religious, but I do hold strong views and strict morals, in my own way, and I have put a certain amount of effort into figuring out how to influence my children to behave in ways I consider morally right and to avoid behaving in ways I consider morally reprehensible.

One of the things we've done to help us with this is start attending Quaker Meeting most weeks, locally. A religion that lets atheists in helps, as far as I'm concerned, and it's a hotbed of ethical and political activism - it's one of the few places where I'm not on the outside extreme edge.

What do I do? I try to be mindful of the fact that we share the planet with billions of other people and cause as little damage to it and them as possible.

Ethical consumerism. We buy our groceries primarily from the, which helps us make sure we're getting local, organic, or Fair Trade goods, in general. They also do post-consumer recycled toilet paper and printer paper, and various other non-food things.

When Linnea hit an age to be useful in a sweat-shop I went along the high-street and asked for the shops' policies on ethical sourcing. No-one does it, basically, but H&M and John Lewis both have written policies about their supply chain, saying nothing about slave labour but promising that they don't source from anyone using children under 12 or 14. So we buy a lot of clothes second-hand or from, because having my children wear things which might have been made by children their own age bothers me enormously.

We don't drive. We walk, or get the bus, or cycle - we have a tricycle which, when it's in good repair and my SPD is ok, can carry two children and an adult in the passenger box, or two children and a baby in a carseat, or three children.

We donate to charity and give money to buskers and beggars - the latter mainly so that the children see us giving something to someone, since charity donations are mainly done via online banking, which isn't visible to a four-year-old, but I do have a history of feeding homeless people even when I'm not doing it for show, so I don't feel too hypocritical about it.

We vaccinate, to keep people who can't be vaccinated safe, and when we're ill we warn people before seeing them, so that they can decide whether or not to be exposed to our germs. We fine-comb for headlice and tell people if we get those, too. We teach our children how soap breaks down germs and why they must wash with soap if they want to kill germs, though water is fine for just making things look clean. We don't use antibacterial this and bleach that.

The children tagged along when I was a Helper for the Breastfeeding Network, almost every week for two years, and when we volunteered at the food co-op, and when we shoveled snow off the paths and did shopping for neighbours the last two winters.

We take a general interest in what goes on around us, and the children have seen us write letters, volunteer for hours in various contexts, or just follow the news vocally. They are exposed to our ideas on slavery, sexism, xenophobia, selfishness, oppression, rats, cats and elephants, all the time. I have a lot of opinions to go around.

And it seems to sort of work. At least, it worked for my mother, though I don't think she predicted I'd be quite as rabid as I turned out. And my daughter stopped being vegetarian when presented with sausage rolls... but I still think some of it sinks in.

Time will tell. At least, I tell myself, I tried.

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