Greening Our Family Values

I recently read an article called "On Being a Parenting Original" and it inspired me to write this post. So, parents, relatives, friends beware. You may not agree with some, most, or even all of what I am about to write. In fact, it may upset some of you. But frankly, it is time for me to put my feelings ahead of others. That being said, what you are about to read will probably change your feelings and opinion about me. If you are not afraid, or already know me well, read on. If you are unsure or are not ready for that change, please, stop reading now, but know if you do, you may not understand me, my family, or my actions after today. My true intention for doing this is so that my close family and friends (those who want to) understand the reasons behind my actions, especially when it comes to my children. Love me, hate me. Take me, leave me. It's me. This is not in response to any one person's actions or words, I just have been feeling a little misunderstood lately.

To quote the above article, "Parenting is never an easy job. It's often occurred to me that if you aren't terrified of being a parent, you haven't given the job enough thought." I truly believe that being a parent is about making mistakes and learning from them. God knows, I have made many mistakes, but when it comes to my children, I have always learned something and tried to do everything in such a way that it honors our family values. To my own personal disappointment, until now I have not been vocal enough about what my values are. In some cases I felt like I set my values aside in order to keep peace. I know now that relationships will become more damaged by resentments that build up from ignoring issues, especially concerning our values.

The first, probably most visible issue, is why we have chosen to rid our house of as much plastic (especially plastic toys) as we can. Simple. PVC, BPA, phthalates, lead and all the other toxins plastic brings to our home. The simple fact is that these toxins are found in children's plastic toys, baby bottles, water bottles and any other hard plastics. "The manufacture of PVC releases toxins into the air and water called dioxins, which enter the food chain and contaminate food sources. Two additives in PVC make it so demonized in the environmental world - lead and phthalates." (from "The Virtuous Consumer" by Leslie Garrett) Lead and Phthalates are leaching toxins that can get into our babies' bodies through their chewing on plastic toys. BPA (Bisphenol A, is a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to birth defects, cancer and early onset of puberty. This chemical has been found in humans as it also leaches into our blood streams.

A couple years ago, my friend challenged me to take a look at the toys in our house and find one that is not made in China. I couldn't do it. In addition, all of the toys were made of plastic. I have slowly been removing those toys from our house and replacing them with natural wooden toys that are made in Europe. There are some European plastic toys that I will still buy for Cameron as Europe has banned certain chemicals including PVC and Phthalates. Since removing a bunch of toys from the house and reorganizing our playroom, the natural toys have received much more attention from both Cameron and Olivia. Limiting what we (Damien and I) are allowing them to have has also helped us focus on "Quality" over "Quantity". Cameron loves to pretend to be an animal and run around the house, while Olivia is happy sitting on the floor with me playing peek-a-boo or climbing on me and giggling. Our "rule" about what to buy our children makes it difficult to just go out and buy something for them, but that is fine with us. They don't need a bunch of toys to make them happy and we don't buy something because it's only $5. We make more conscientious decisions about what we are purchasing. In fact, Cameron knows we won't just buy him a toy whenever he asks, and so, he doesn't ask (as much).

Last Christmas I tried to let everyone know how I felt about this issue, but I don't think I explained myself well. In fact, I think I actually offended most people, even though I was not trying to do that. In order to keep the peace I allowed some toys that I shouldn't have allowed because they do not fit into our toy values, but I didn't want to make things difficult. But I know now that I need to be firm. No more plastic toys, please, and no more toys made in China. There are other restrictions as well, so to be safe, just ask. I am more than willing to share with you my wishes. If they receive something that we do not think is appropriate, please know that it will not remain in our house.

On organic food and becoming a vegetarian (again), I know there are a lot of questions about that choice for myself and my family. Yes, buying organic is more expensive. Yes, being a vegetarian is not easy. But I feel great about this choice for my family. I will not force my children to be vegetarian, but they will eat organic whenever possible. Not only have we made the choice to buy organic, but we will buy local when we can. This doesn't mean we won't order pizza or go out to eat. We just do it less often, which means healthier us and more money in our pockets.

OK, here's the new one. Cloth diapers. I know you all think I'm crazy, and my Mom just outright refuses to accept it. In fact, two years ago when my friend Kim started using them, I thought she was crazy! (Sorry Kim :) But, I have been using them with Ben and I have started to use cloth diapers on Olivia and I like it. I like knowing we won't have to go to BJ's for diapers once every a month. I like knowing that we are no longer contributing to the landfills. I like how easy the diapers are to use and to clean. Olivia doesn't mind it either, and the diapers I found do not feel wet against her cute little tush. And, to top it off, Cameron and I had a nice bonding experience giving one of her diapers a swirly in the toilet the other day. Yes, she needs bigger clothes, but she was ready for them anyway.

Breastfeeding. Cameron stopped on his own at 10 months. Olivia shows no signs of wanting to stop. I will nurse her until she doesn't want to nurse anymore. I certainly don't expect her to be nursing on her first day of school. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean that I shun parents who choose to bottle-feed/ formula-feed their babies. In fact, not too long ago, I thought that breastfeeding beyond one year was weird. My opinion has changed with time, experience and my love for breastfeeding my daughter.

Co-sleeping. There was a time that Damien and I both agreed that our children would not share our bed. Cameron was such an easy sleeper. At six months he was sleeping through the night in his own crib. The transfer to the big boy bed was so easy and he slept through the night, coming into our bed around 5 a.m. for snuggle-sleep. Then came Olivia and it all changed, including our opinion about co-sleeping. Now the four of us wake up in the same bed every morning and I wouldn't have it any other way. And, there is nothing wrong with it. They'll get out eventually, and when that day comes, I will be sad.

So, you may ask, how do I know that my choices are right for my family? Another simple answer...It doesn't really matter, they are my choices. When my kids are old enough they can make their own choices and I will respect any choice they make. I respect others' choices as just that, their choices. I don't want or expect anyone to choose what I choose for my family. I expect there to be questions about my choices, but what I never expected was criticism or the questions to go on behind my back instead of asking me. Don't get me wrong, I can handle the jokes (yes, Nate and Wit, I mean you). What hurts the most is hearing what goes on behind my back or simply refusing to respect my wishes. If someone tells me that they don't want natural wooden toys for their children, OK, that's fine. I'll buy that child clothes or a gift certificate or a book. If someone tells me they disagree with my values, OK, that's fine, I can take it. The problem is, you have to tell me, otherwise I don't know.

In the same respect, if I say or do something that you do not agree with or goes against something you believe, or hurts your feelings, please, tell me. Maybe that has already happened and there are some hurt feelings (I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't believe this to be true) but I can't fix it unless you tell me how I have wronged you. Or, we could just let bygones be bygones and start anew. I like to think I am not a judgmental person, but I honestly think it is impossible to be completely nonjudgmental. The trick is to keep the judgments to ourselves, which I have recently made a personal oath to do. I have always been a very trusting person, and I think that quality can sometimes get me into more trouble than any of my other faults.


  1. Bravo, Amanda. I thoroughly enjoy your honesty and find it one of the things that drew me to you as a friend. I do not feel as though I ever have to guess your true feelings. I want you to know that because you share your values with others - some of it may rub off. I just purchased Jaydin's birthday gifts - none of which were manufactured in China. I got him less (in quantity) but much, much more in quality. I know he will enjoy the toys I purchased for a long time to come.

    And - I have never felt judged by you. You have been one of the most supportive people that I have as a friend.

    And, yes, I still miss you so very much at work. I'm glad we have ways of staying in touch.

    I'm proud of you for sticking to your values for you and your family.

    With much respect - Jan

  2. Amanda

    I love you very much. I think you are a great mom. If I make fun of you for anything that you do, it is because I like to tease you. Your ideas make sense to me. If the opportunity arises I hope that I can have the strength to stick up for you when you are being talked about.

  3. DITTO!! I love what you said...and I congratulate you on ALL your choices. Most of what you are doing we've been doing for quite some time...and have received a lot of raised eyebrows, and rolled eyes about all of it...(especially the organic, and co-sleeping stuff) Sometimes right in my face...but one of the best things I've learned from being a Mom is that you have to let as much as you can roll off your back. There is only ONE we have to answer to in the end regarding the choices we've made in parenting. He's the one I worry the most about pleasing!

    We'll have to get together this summer and go shopping at the Farmer's Markets this year...it's awesome!

    I'd like to learn more about the types of toys you purchase. We don't have a lot of toys in our house, mostly because of Ethan's sensory and developmental issues. In a lot of ways he will still play on a 3 yr. level. But, we are trying to get rid of sippee cups, haven't used bottles since Ethan. Sadly, Bekah just weaned herself this past week, but was my longest nurser at 15 1/2 mos. old!!

    I hope this doesn't sound patronizing (sp?)...I'm proud of you for taking a stand for your growing family.

    Okay...I think my comment was long enough...sorry about that! :)


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