Posts tagged poo

Teaching Conservation at the Bottom End

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I blurted out as I saw the pile of toilet paper on the bathroom floor. “Please don’t tell me you use this much every time you wipe!”

I know, I know. Not exactly a good way to start an open and honest conversation about conservation with my son. Let’s just say I was surprised since I’m pretty sure we’d had the conversation about how many squares will do for a poo. Apparently I was mistaken, in which case the teachable moment had arrived.

Perhaps some background is in order before I continue. I grew up with a father who puts the conservation efforts of most of us to shame. He still keeps the sleeping quarters a chilly 17 C in the winter, since “we’re not up there during the day. Why should we heat it?” (They live in their rec room where there is a wood-burning stove.) So when I was a child growing up, I remember mom explaining to me that 2 squares are all you needed for a pee and 4 for most poo’s.

This probably sounds ridiculous to most readers. I remember thinking that we were the only family to ration toilet paper. (I’d love to hear from others who did the same!) Now that I am grown up and buying my own toilet paper, I understand why it made sense for a family of six with four children in private school.

I realize that for most people, toilet paper does not constitute a big slice of the family budget, but consider the environmental cost of toilet paper production:

  • Each day, 27,000 trees are razed to keep up with the global demand for clean bums. This number is increasing as sanitation improves in developing countries.
  • The global average per capita use of toilet paper is 3.8 kg per year. That’s about 76 2-ply rolls per person. The American average (as if you didn’t see this one coming) is 23 kg per person per year.[1]

Translation: the average American bum (let’s include our own rear ends here) requires 460 rolls of toilet paper each year to feel clean, while Mr. Joe Global can get by with 76 rolls. Either we are just “letting it roll” like I witnessed my 6-year-old doing the other day, or we’re very busy making toilet-paper flowers for wedding cars.

As with many things in life, our attitudes are shaped while we are young. Gone are the days when we can just do (and let our kids do) whatever comes naturally and pretend that our actions have no consequences. Yes, kids will waste water when they wash their hands because it’s just so fun to play with running water. Yes, our kids will thoughtlessly unravel yards of toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. Kids are not responsible adults, and that’s OK. It’s our job though to train them up to be responsible adults, and that always starts by being that responsible adult ourselves. Once we are leading by example we can set the bar higher and expect a little bit more from our children as well.

Just in case this still isn’t making any sense, allow me to explain it like I did to my son the other day. Imagine the world and its resources are like a bowl of Jell-o. You know how much you love Jell-o and how much your brothers love Jell-o. How would you feel if Sammy ate most of the Jell-o and only left a little bit for you and Caleb? If everyone takes their fair share of the Jell-o, then there will be enough to go around.

Let’s think twice before we stuff our collective faces with Jell-o today.

[1] Source: AccessedJuly 13, 2011

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For the Love of Brothers

I have recently asked myself the question, “what must have gone through Eve’s mind when she brought Abel home from the…wherever babies were born at the dawn of time?” As the first sibling in the history of the world, it was anyone’s guess as to how this would play out. Eve probably knelt down, took little Cain in her arms, and said with great feeling, “look honey, it’s a baby brother for you! He’ll be your best friend and you’ll play together all the time and maybe, when you’re older, Daddy will build you bunk beds!”

Not having grown up with any siblings (not having “grown up” at all, I suppose) Adam and Eve must have been left scratching their heads more than once about why on earth their two boys just couldn’t get along. When exactly did it dawn on them that there was a problem between their boys? Was it the first time Cain grabbed baby Abel and dragged him around the house by his head? Perhaps it was when Abel was 3 ½ and Cain was 6, and Abel would argue every single point Cain made, insisting that the blue sky was actually red, and a helium balloon floats down, not up. At least there were no relatives who gave the boys non-identical gifts, otherwise Cain and Abel would have been fighting about who got to play with which jeep too.

Some of my readers will think all this conjecture a stretch, no doubt, but look at how that relationship ended. Don’t tell me those boys didn’t have a history before Cain finally did in his younger brother.

After two weeks of Christmas holidays, Oli and I found ourselves desperately wishing for a four-bedroom house where we could sequester the boys at regular intervals.  Our new parenting motto is “divide and conquer.” I highly recommend this motto to anyone who feels like they’re kept busy just trying to put out fires as they erupt between their children. (It’s also very useful when you’re trying to get two of your children to complete a simple task like putting on their pj’s while you’re putting the baby to sleep. The division will decrease the temptation for the children to run around naked in their bedroom, waving their pajamas like a cowboy lassoing a heffer, and shouting and laughing loudly about jokes involving poo, pee, and farts.) Alas, we remain in our three-bedroom home, which brings with it some unique problems beginning at 7:00am and usually ending 13 hours later.

We have been blessed with a bossy and pious 6-year-old parent and a 3 ½ year-old dissenter with the emotional constitution of a stick of butter. Here is the typical 6:45am interchange for these two who, for better or worse, share a bedroom: One of the boys wakes up and cannot stand being awake alone, so he wakes up the other boy. Since it’s still dark and neither one likes the dark (besides, it’s lights-out until 7:00am) they are completely co-dependant until the lights are on. If Teddy has to go pee and heads out the door too quickly, Sammy panics and begins to cry as he quickly runs after him to the bathroom.

Once in the bathroom they begin to discuss, which is dangerous when one of the boys feels compelled to argue every point that his brother makes, and the other has the patience quotient of a Tazmanian Devil. Teddy, who usually begins any conversation, will make a statement like, “Sammy, when we’re done peeing we have to go back into our beds until the clock says 7:00.” At age 3 ½ (at least I attribute this to his age… it’s my only hope) Sammy will inevitably say, “No we don’t,” in that sing-song way that annoys Teddy more than anything else in the world. Instantly furious, Teddy reiterates the validity of his statement by angrily pointing out that, “yes we do, because Mom said so!” Using the broken-record tactic that drives even the most expert debater to the brink of madness, Sam simply re-uses his initial response: “No she didn’t” (imagine the sing-song voice here). In Teddy’s world it’s two strikes and you’re out, and so he comes out swinging at his annoying younger brother, who immediately bursts into heart-wrenching sobs and comes running out of the bathroom blubbering about how Teddy’s angry and he hit him. Go figure. Repeat this interchange with slight variations throughout the day and take away separate rooms, and you might see why I desire a four-bedroom house.

18 months ago we were also entrusted with a highly intelligent, mischievous little boy whose idea of a good time is incessantly bothering his older brother Sam with things like repeatedly touching his arm while we’re driving (yes, that is a grievous sin), or pressing in really closely next to him to get a look at the book Sam’s looking at. When Sam – who, deep down, is really a peaceful little boy – takes his book and moves away, Caleb will wait for only a second or two before following him to press against his side once again. (It doesn’t help the situation that Caleb is really near-sighted and needs to see things up close.) When Sam says, “No Caleb!” our pre-verbal baby can often be heard responding with “ehh!” which Sam correctly interprets as a “yes,” which results in those two phrases being volleyed back and forth between the two.  As Sammy’s ire rises, so too does Caleb’s enjoyment of the interchange. If Sammy has barricaded himself in his room to get some peace and quiet from the onslaught on two fronts, Caleb sets out to find Teddy. Surprisingly, Teddy has much more patience for him, although even Teddy has his limits. It’s just a plain fact that 18-month-old little boys get in the way of a good game of cars, and cannot be tolerated. Their peaceful play usually ends when I hear, “Caleb, NO! Mom, could you come take Caleb please?” So much for dinner preparations.

It was with much delight and surprise, therefore, that Oli and I commented to each other just a few days ago about how peacefully the boys were playing downstairs. By the sounds of it they were playing with their toy kitchen, and were obviously engrossed in their meal preparations, which allowed me to complete mine. Anybody who’s a parent knows that you do not pick that moment to go check on the kids, because that will automatically break the spell, so we stayed upstairs, enjoying the rare moment of peace. After a while, Teddy invited me downstairs to see what they had been cooking. Expecting dinner at their restaurant, I made my way downstairs to see what they had been up to. When I arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Teddy excitedly proclaimed that they were giants, and that the little Playmobile people in the pots and pans were the people they were eating for breakfast. Too much Jack and the Beanstalk, perhaps? The scenario left me essentially speechless, so I turned around and went back upstairs. Pick your battles, right? That night, dinner on the table won.

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