Kids taught me another lesson

Maddie reminded me again on Saturday how much I can learn from my kids.Kids in back of car

We had just spent a pleasant, lazy afternoon in town having a late lunch, exchanging books in the library* and buying marker pens for a gathering of Transition Towns the following day**.

I’m afraid to admit that we’d driven to town, even though it is walkable.  It was the lazy option, both mentally and physically.  You need to be organised to live a low carbon life.  We had no food in the house and had left it too late to walk.

We’d arrived back home, and Rowan was getting the buggy out of the boot, and I was trying to manage a little tiff that Maddie and Emily were having while still strapped into their seats in the back of the car.

Maddie was reading the blurb of the three Enid Blyton books she’d got out of the library.

“If you don’t give me one of those books, I’ll punch you again” threatened Emily.  She slightly lisped the “ch” at the end of “punch”.  “And if I ask you and you don’t give me another, I’ll punch you again”.

There followed a typical little exchange between the two of them where we established that Emily had indeed been the aggressor.

“But it was very lightly” Emily protested quietly.

To be fair, it probably was.  It’s difficult not to laugh when she gently closes a door in a fit of pique.

“You might need to go on the naughty step if you don’t say something to Maddie.  What do you think that would be?”

“Sowwy Maddie” she apologised.

“It’s not good to punch people if you want something.  Then again, Maddie, it would be good if you could share with Ems.  If she asks nicely for a book, maybe you could give her one?”

“Please can I have one of your books?” Ems asked, eyes turned downwards.

A book was handed over, Maddie hanging her head as well.

“I think that if you both treated each other as though you love each other you’ll both be happy,” I said, veering into preachy mode.

Still looking at her feet, Maddie said “Daddy, I think Mummy would be happier if you helped her with the boot”.

Game, set, match small people.

I got out of the car to help Rowan.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

* I took “Prosperity without growth” back without opening it – not had time – I’ll get it out again when I’ve finished “The Long Earth”

** 22 people from a dozen different local Transition Towns are gathering (have gathered by the time this goes live) talk about how we can work together.  In a classic example of “build it and they will come”, a friend Andrew Davies, author of the Future Café, had offered to host an event for me for free, on any subject.  The idea of getting the local TTs together came after we’d decided to have a meeting.  I’ll write a post about it soon.

Dear Maddie, Emily & James

Dear Maddie, Emily and James

I am writing this letter in 2013, when you are 7 years old, 4 and a baby respectively.  You are too young to appreciate what I have to say at the moment, so I am writing the letter to your older selves, when you yourselves have children of your own.
I am sorry.  I am so sorry.

I don’t know what has happened between 2013 and now, when you are reading this, but I have a pretty good idea.

We have already irreparably damaged the climate.  It will not return to its natural state on human timescales.  I dare not think about it, but fear that by the time you read this that what is known now as “catastrophic” climate change is locked in, unavoidable.  People, animals and plants around the planet will be desperately trying to adapt to the violent and volatile weather, the loss of the regular weather patterns such as the monsoons, upon which our comfort and the survival of vast populations rely.  I hope beyond hope that war has not been the result, that the people of the planet have pulled together to help each other and the natural world to cope.  I am doing what I can to try to change this course, but I am not sure I will be able to.
I hope you are alright.

I am doing what I can for our family not to be part of the problem, but it is almost impossible to avoid, not without a general changing of attitudes and policies in the UK at least.  We’ve got solar panels, I’m avoiding commuting, the car sits on the drive almost all the time, we’re getting our food locally as much as we can – you are only vaguely aware of this at the moment.

Whether I am right in my prediction of the future or I am wrong, I am sorry for all the jibes you will inevitably receive from your peers about your crazy father and for any disappointment you have felt due to the lack of flights abroad or new gadgets.  I’m sorry for all the times over the years that we have fallen out as a result.  Know that I have always acted for your future, out of the deepest love for all three of you.

As I write, the issue of the changing climate is on the backburner in the press and public opinion.  Many of my friends and some of your family carry on with their carbon-intensive lives as if there were no tomorrow.  They apologise to me for the worst of their excesses, knowing I am trying to make a difference.  To avoid conflict with those with whom I care, I have resisted the temptation to tell them to not worry about apologising to me, but to go and find their own children and apologise to them.Emily

At the same time there is a ground-swell of activity starting across the planet as we start to take on the vested interests and bloody mindedness that currently has the upper hand.  I am part of that, and hope that we are successful to the point that my worst fears are not realised.

I love you very much, both as my little children and as the adults you have become (you’re “gwowm-ups” now).

Daddy (or Grandpa by now, I suppose),

Ordinary bloke