General ramblings

But Don’t You Worry Your Kids Will Be Bullied?

Since writing the piece for the Daily Mail about our possibly slightly different approach to Christmas, and our attempts to shift the focus away from the presents and the stuff, we have had a reasonable amount of press interest. I’ve done radio interviews, and interviews with other journalists, and the kids and I have even been on the local news.

The one question that I keep getting asked again and again, is “What about the kids, don’t you think they might be picked on at school?”.

If I’m honest, it had never really occurred to me prior to all this attention, that the kids might be picked on because of the way we choose to live.
I just don’t really see our lifestyle as anything that extraordinary, or that different.
We have made lots of little changes, that have all added up to lessen our family’s impact on the planet, but I genuinely don’t think that anyone looking at us from the outside would think we were in any way ‘odd’.
We do our recycling (ok, so I might be slightly more anal than most about what goes in the bin, and I *may* have been known to pick recyclables out of the bin), we have solar panels on the roof, and we make our own Christmas tree out of pompoms (actually that might be a bit odd).

Pompom tree
But we still have ‘stuff’. Despite my best efforts, we still have clutter. The kids still have toys, and books, and lego. A LOT of lego.
We still buy stuff. And even though I try really hard, sometimes I will buy stuff we don’t really need (albeit from a charity shop).
I don’t see anything in our lives that mark us out as ‘different’ and that would make the kids a target for bullying.

After spending an afternoon with the kids being filmed for the local news, where they were being asked very pointed questions about what they want for Christmas, and how they feel about having homemade presents, I spent a sleepless night worrying about what I had said on camera, and how it might be ‘spun’.
I worried about what I have started with writing that piece.
I wanted to spread a message that it’s ok to not buy into the consumerism of Christmas, that it’s ok to do things differently, and not try to keep up with the Jones’s. But it felt very much like what I had done was open up my kids to the possibility of ridicule.
The way we live was being portrayed as something different. And we all know how cruel kids can be about different.
In the morning, I took the boys aside, and we had a chat about Christmas, and about the fact that despite what the newspapers might say, Father Christmas is visiting them. They will be getting presents. Yes, some of them might be homemade, and that that is probably different to what other kids might be getting. They were unfazed. They didn’t see it as a big thing, and were more concerned with finding the right helmet for a Lego storm-trooper (you see what I’m saying about the Lego..?).

Lego Christmas-2

As it happens, there has been no bullying. The kids have not been picked on. A couple of their friends saw them on the TV, and were I think more impressed by the fact they were on the TV, rather than taking any notice of what the whole piece was about.
But I do worry. As a parent it appears to be the default setting.
I don’t want my kids to be picked on. No one wants their kids to be picked on.
But that doesn’t mean that we all have to be the same.
I want to teach my kids that it’s ok to be different. In fact, it can be bl**dy marvellous to be different.
It’s ok to think about what you are doing, and why you are doing it, and to question whether there might be another way.
I want my kids to know that if there is something they are passionate about, something that they really believe in, that they think is really important, then it’s ok to stick your head above the parapet and stand up for it.

When I pitched that article, I did it because it’s a message I really believe in. I may have been slightly naive, and not really forseen the possible consequences, but that doesn’t change the message, or the importance of it.
Climate change, and resource scarcity are going to be two of the defining issues of our generation. This is real. It is happening. And it is scary as hell.
But we can all do things to mitigate it. Yes, they might only be tiny things in the grand scheme of it all. They might seem inconsequential. But we can do them.
Someone commented on Twitter yesterday, that what we are doing is creating ripples. And that those ripples spread.
I like that analogy. I might be a tiny pebble being dropped into a vast ocean, but I am creating ripples.
We can all create ripples.

As much as I worry about kids, and whether they are going to be picked on, I worry about their future too.
I worry about what will face them in 30 years time.
I worry that they will turn around to me and ask “What the hell were you all doing?”.
And I want to be able to say that I tried. That I stuck my head up above the parapet, and I tried.

Cookie Cutter-P2


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  • Reply Can't Swing a Cat | Buying Stuff & Bullying - Can't Swing a Cat January 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    […] However, Jen’s anti-consumerism Christmas hasn’t been applauded by everyone. In a recent blog post, Jen explained that a number of people have asked her this one question: “But don’t you worry your kids will be bullied?” […]

  • Reply Anna McNally December 21, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Hi, I came to this article via the A Playful Day blog. I had quite a hippy upbringing in the 1980s – we grew our own vegetables and I had homemade clothes, particular a homemade school dress and cardigan that I loathed because I was relentlessly teased about them. And you know what? Now I make my own clothes and grow my own vegetables and I’m super glad my parents gave me those skills and the confidence to do things for myself. I hope your kids don’t get bullied but regardless of what happens, I’m sure that in the long-term they will appreciate your point of view.

    • Reply Jen December 22, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Anna!
      Thanks for popping over from Kate’s wonderful blog. So pleased to hear that your experiences have all been positive (in the end!)

  • Reply Val Armstrong December 19, 2015 at 3:50 am

    I am probably older than you are. But I live a little outside the box myself. I sew, I quilt, I crochet, I knit, do counted cross stitch, embroider, and needlepoint. I make my own cleaning products. I hang my laundry out to dry. I make my own laundry detergent and my own shampoo. I recycle, I garden, I can and preserve and I cook from scratch. We ALWAYS have “Homemade Chistmas” and we love it. Don’t feel weird about being thrifty and environmentally responsible. You are teaching your children valuablevlessons on what the REALLY IMPORTANT things are. Well done! Merry Christmas from Arizona, USA

    • Reply Jen December 19, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Hi Val, all the way from Arizona!
      Thanks for the lovely comments 🙂
      I really want to have a go at making more cleaning products and toiletries next year-do you have any fail safe recipes you could share?

  • Reply Tass December 18, 2015 at 9:05 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with the other comments you’ve received & applaud your actions. I too am anal about recycling & definitely go through our bins! It rubs off: my 17 year old son brings his recycling home with him if his friends don’t make it easy at their place & our visitors train themselves up! I have directly challenged people I’ve met who say “well, Christmas is so expensive & the shops are so busy, but you just have to do it, don’t you?”. No you don’t! Forget the shops. Arrange to see your friends, buy them membership to an organisation they’ll cherish…. Tap into your kids imagination & have fun using the simplest of articles (card board boxes), bake presents together. Your boys are enriched by your actions & they’ll be just fine. Happy Christmas!!

    • Reply Jen December 19, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks so much Tass! Some lovely ideas there 🙂

  • Reply Nicole Macey December 18, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Good on you for being you! I think we all worry about our kids being bullied for some reason or another. And in reality I guess every child will be bullied at some point- and it will not be for the reason we predict – but something completely out of our control. I love that you are different and embracing it. And If more people were like you the world would be in a much better place. By the way – the pom pom tree is amazing beyond words! And much bigger than I thought! No wonder it took for ever to make!

    • Reply Jen December 19, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks Nicole!

  • Reply Kate Harrison December 17, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    The media portayal of Christmas is unattainable for many and stressful for others. What your children will remember is having fun and being part of a loving family and knowing what’s really important. My lovely daughter is not giving presents this year but will be sponsoring places at a Christmas shelter for homeless people and supporting refugees.

    • Reply Jen December 17, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Oh wow Kate, that’s amazing!

  • Reply Clare Davis Etheridge December 17, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Firstly that pom pom Christmas tree rocks! Love it! Creating ripples is so important I think, little things can make a big difference. I put you in the same boat as Wayne Hemingway and how cool is he?! Different is good and awareness is good too. Keep on doing what you are doing.

    • Reply Jen December 17, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks Clare!

  • Reply Zoe @ecothrifty December 17, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I’m really sorry to hear they made you feel bad. My kids get the majority of their stuff from charity shops and it has never been a problem – I repeatedly explain to them what the problem is with new stuff. If you are still worrying about what their friends think, you could go to their school and do a talk. I did one to my kids school about where rubbish goes when you throw it away and showed them a video of landfill and they were all shocked and disgusted. Then I talked to them about reduce, reuse, recycle etc – I got them to help me mend a couple of broken books and showed them they could turn old wellies into planters – that kind of thing. So next time the journalists ask you if your kids are being bullied you can tell them no – your kids classes or even school are on your side! There is an eco – school programme out there and I keep thinking about talking my kids school into becoming an eco-school. Don’t let these people get you down – they just haven’t seen the light yet! Your kids come across really well on camera btw- they are a credit to you!

    • Reply Jen December 17, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks so much Zoe! Great idea to do a talk or an assembly 🙂

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