For those of us raised in the “you can do anything you want to” era, growing up and realizing that I was not, in fact, changing the world in any significant way was a bit of a shock. I wanted to do work that was interesting, rewarding, socially positive and helping to save the environment. But my first real job out of university was a customer service job in a call centre, and I did not feel like I was going to change the world at all.
Then I became a parent. The magnitude of our collective environmental responsibility became apparent to me, and the effect that mainstream culture could have on my newborn child as she grew up was frightening, really something I didn’t want to think about that much. I wasn’t exactly sure how much my parenting style would make a difference to how my child turned out in the end, but I knew that some choices felt more right to me than others after I set the nature/nurture debate aside.
I wanted to make choices to be with my children, to teach them about food production by getting dirty in the garden, to show them that diversity is a good thing by being friends with diverse people. I wanted to teach them that passion, curiosity, eccentricity and geekiness are really, really good things, even when everyone else was saying that money and looks matter more.
I hoped that, in some small way, I might be able to change the world in the way I was raising my child.
David Suzuki said that his greatest hope for the environmental movement and the health of the planet lies with young mothers, who are suddenly thrust into an acute awareness of the relationship between human health and the health of our planet when their babies are born. When these moms begin to stand up and demand healthier choices, organic food, safe skincare products and transparent ingredient lists, they’re helping to change the world.
Homeschoolers and unschoolers who choose to prioritise freedom, personal responsibility, intrinsic motivation and emotional attachment are changing their children’s world away from one of performance, comparison and test scores. But will these changes percolate out to the wider world? When this generation of unschoolers grows up, will they take these attitudes with them, or will they rebel?
The recent media coverage of the genderless baby Storm and his/her unschooling family has brought these issues to a wider audience. Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, parents of three children, have decided to raise their baby Storm without telling people whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
Some critics say that these kind of parenting choices will cripple a child when it comes time to make their way in the big, bad world. And it is true that the more different you are from everyone else, the more skills and confidence you will need to successfully work and live alongside everyone else in a culture that doesn’t share your values. But there isn’t any way to move towards the world we want to see without being different from the way it is. Having a family culture of love, acceptance and positive guidance is far more important to me than the way you dress and talk about your baby. So what if the baby wears red instead of pink or blue?
I believe Storm’s parents are trying to do their best to change the world through the work of parenting, just like many other socially and environmentally conscious parents out there. You can’t force anyone else to change. You can only change yourself and how you live in the world, and parents have as much right to do this as anyone else.