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).
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..?).
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.