Wednesday 15 February 2012

The worst daddy in the world

I am, it seems, the worst daddy in the world.

Every morning, in term time, I force my children to walk the fifteen minute walk to school, come rain or shine, or, in the last month, snow and ice. Why, Daddy, why? Why can't we just drive?

It is true that driving them to school would make my morning much more complicated - I'd have to drive to school, drive back again, then retrace my steps to walk into work. But, it's also true that I really don't want to drive to school. On the best mornings, we walk to school singing and skipping (well, they skip, I walk), we tell stories and it's just like the Waltons. Other days, it takes a lot of strength not to give in, get in the car and just drive. So, why don't I?

The girls are very good about turning lights off in the house, and are quite quick to tell me if I forget. They tell me, from discussions at school, about the melting polar ice caps and the effect on polar bears. And they've started to get the hang of buying local (or at least British), and they've understood Fairtrade for a long time. But by and large, these are the easy things, they don't affect them directly too much. The school walk does. It's hard on little legs, especially when it's cold and wet - maybe I am the worst daddy in the world?

It's a difficult balancing act, being a parent. You want to make life easy for your children as much as possible, shield them from the worst that the world can throw at them. At the same time, you want to inculcate them with the values that you think are important. That's part of being a parent too. I've explained that turning lights off has value in itself, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to driving the car to school each day. But to such small children, it's difficult to explain causes and effects. What about the whole range of issues, from air travel to "stuff" - I've written before about the amount of stuff that kids consume - there are whole industries dedicated to getting parents to part with their money on behalf of their kids.

We try and throw up barriers around them - we don't have commercial TV at home, we buy most of their clothes second-hand and we try and spend as much time with them as possible. Doing stuff instead of buying stuff. But it's not easy, and it's going to get harder as they get older and their range of influences gets wider.

So, I walk to school with them rather than drive, and I explain to them why. Sometimes I talk about polar bears and sometimes I just say "that's what we do in our family, we walk to school". I want them to think about how other people are treated, to know that it's important to look out for the environment around them and for people other than themselves. I can't tell them everything all at once, they're too young to take it in, but being a parent is a slow, step-by-step process that you never stop working on.

1 comment:

  1. Being told by one's children that you are quite unlike all the other children's parents in your mean-ness or whatever is absolutely par for the course!
    Most of today's children are growing up in an environment of unprecedented ease (obviously excluding those experiencing true deprivation at the hands of truly inadequate parents). If they do not experience some "hardship" they will not have any way of knowing as adults that they have a resilient core that can face adversity. If only by small lessons it is vital to learn this.
    I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, in circumstances that were normal then but may well be considered hard now. No car, no central heating, very few mod cons of any kind. I walked to school, and many other places besides. As a child I would gladly have exchanged many things for a softer option, but I would not have found out that I don't need things to be easy. Since then life has taught many other lessons and they all help build one's resilience.
    Your children and their children will be facing tough times in the future. Somebody in their generations will need to know not only the theory of being green, but the actual practice of what it means to put the earth and her ecosystems before their own ease and convenience and you are being more than responsible in giving them a taste of how to do that whether they appreciate it at this moment or not.