Now that summer is in full swing, I’m struck again at how politically incorrect kids are when it comes to the environment. As in exuberant, highly-creative wastefulness.
As I started to wash the dishes the other day, I cranked up the hot water and turned to find another bottle of dishwashing soap emptied before its time. It was used up and carefully replaced after a sink adventure that was heavy on bubbles and running water, and light on clean dishes.
That reminded me that the day before I’d gotten into the shower to find the shampoo bottle empty a mere few weeks after it had been bought. The soapy film under my feet told me what had happened to it. And now that warm weather is here, I find out in the yard our little summer mud piles have returned, as unwelcome as Canada geese. And next to them are tupperware’s stolen from the kitchen (ignoring the only-slightly-cracked pile put out by the deck for just this type of play).
Last week I was asked if I could spare the bag of organic brown rice to be used as a stuffing for a sock puppet. (Answer: no) Just hours later, flour and eggs were requested for a mud, food coloring, soap shavings and weed concoction that was being moistened with the endlessly running hose.
(Note to parents of young ones who haven’t started making “potions” yet: If this substance is not removed and cleaned well before it has dried, you might as well throw the container away. The stuff cannot be chipped off with a chisel.)
Regularly, my car is happily washed with wild sprays of water that completely dampen the driveway and the house walls, but miss the garden. My car windows are carefully wiped down with our softened well water, leaving a film and spots. (Requests to use a vinegar and water solution with a squeegee are routinely ignored).
Notebooks and pieces of paper are drawn on and thrown away with abandon. I’ve tried so many ways to stop this including making the girls pay for their craft supplies. They joke about it now, as if it’s a permanent personality trait. “Yeah, I’m the one who only uses one side of paper!” Sometimes it’s rebellious. Sometimes it’s sheepish. But they never stop!!
Of course, I’ve explained the three Rs to them. I’ve calmly turned off water and talked about saving water in our desert environment. I try to contain creative activities to mangeable amounts of supplies. But, I have beautiful creative children and the idea of thrift just eludes them no matter what persuasive methods are used.
And try as I might, deep down, I can’t reconcile the experimental nature of children with any sense of parsimony. What they create is wonderful and joyful. Containment seems to be a more mature trait that is sinking in slowly. For example, they do pick up litter and discuss saving the earth with earnestness. They tattle on each other’s wastefulness without curbing their own. I’m assuming this will all meld in their brains as they grow, so that action will eventually follow intent. In the meanwhile, I’m pretty delighted with the results.