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The Wizard of OzWhen my daughter was only three or four years old, she was obsessed with the “Wizard of Oz” movie. We must have watched parts of it daily for the better part of a year. I know this is not unusual based on the numbers of preschoolers I see in my office wearing ruby red slippers. While I am not a big fan of TV for kids, the fun we had watching clips here and there only served to stimulate her incredible imaginary play the other waking hours of our days.

One of my favorite parts is the following interchange:

Cowardly Lion: …What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! …What have they got that I ain’t got?

Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman: Courage!

Cowardly Lion: You can say that again!

Courage, of course, comes in many sizes. Big and small. What I’m writing about here is the day-to-day courage to stand up for your way of life no matter how much others in your life and community may disagree with you.

A recurring theme has developed lately in my conversations with families in my practice. Even though “green” is everywhere, there are still many challenges families face when they adopt a more natural lifestyle. As I noted last month, there are many baby steps to going green that make it easier to move in that direction. Sometimes cost and access can be significant barriers. But the biggest challenge may be trying to convince others in our communities that what we’re doing for our own kids is what’s best for them. One mom told me a story about how, when she politely declined a junk food snack for her toddler in a playgroup, she was not-so-politely requested to find a new playgroup. Mind you, she wasn’t trying to convert anyone to her way of life, just stating a preference for her child. Another parent has been working for years to introduce healthier hand sanitizer options in her local elementary school. Her main challenge? Not convincing the school administration to look at other options – they’re on board. It’s other parents who remain convinced that commercial alcohol- and chemical-based products are the only effective solution, regardless of safety concerns. A family considering non-pesticide lawn care was ambushed one weekend by neighbors, calling them “bad citizens” for possibly exposing their yards to weeds. Weeds?!? What about the exposure of the children and their pets to the toxic pesticides drifting and running into the family’s yard? Sometimes these battles take place within families. In one home, a mom is constantly fighting her own mother, forever scouring the medicine cabinets and tossing out the artificially-dyed and sweetened cold medicines that the grandmother insists her 8-month old grandson needs for his teething-related mild stuffy nose.

These are just a few of the daily examples of those I think of as “parent warriors,” fighting for what they believe in. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you think will best serve your child – for what you know intuitively is right – when it seems that the world is against you. I still maintain the best path to enlightenment is through education – of other families and of children. I have witnessed several instances of children encouraging other children to recycle or reduce waste or eat organic food. It’s a marvelous transformation to behold. Fortunately, these acts of childhood courage are often met with more openness and less resistance than their grown-up counterparts. Maybe we should all pay more attention to our kids.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”- inspirational author, Mary Anne Radmacher

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