Confessions of a Recovering Eco-Mom E-mail
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 10:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Mother and Child Outdoors photo by Metrognome0In his piece, An Open Letter to the Eco-Mom, EcoHearth contributor Steven Kotler warned against the tendency of mothers—especially those whose ultimate goal is to make the planet safer—to go overboard in keeping their children safe. Well, I’m one of those eco-moms. Or at least I’m in recovery.

I have two children, born almost a decade apart. With my firstborn, I went to great lengths to guard him from un-eco evils. Initially those vices included television, toy weapons and junk food. Eventually they were expanded to video games, cigarettes, reckless friends and drugs. The more I tried to shelter my son from bodily and societal toxins, the riskier his behavior became.

By the time he reached 16, my husband and I were thrust into a “Live Through This” scenario, as our son began running away on weekends. To get him safely to adulthood, we decided to send him out of state for wilderness therapy and year and a half of behavioral-health treatment.

I’m not sure if my son’s rebellion was in reaction to me, or whether it was a course he would have chosen anyhow. I’m also not certain he would have survived adolescence without serious intervention. But I know my helicopter ways didn’t help matters. There are just some things eco-moms can’t control, like what their children choose to eat, which brand of deodorant they use or who their friends are. And they absolutely shouldn’t try to. My second-born taught me this.

Not long ago, I asked my daughter if she had remembered to turn in her math homework. She snapped, “Mom, that was the dumb-blonde question of the week. Do you want another experience like you had with my brother?”

Fortunately, going above and beyond to protect my son didn’t produce what I feared most: a Republican, religious fanatic or addict. Though his teen years were fraught with wanting to belong to gang culture, drug and alcohol consumption, and even becoming homeless for a while, he has grown up to be a self-reliant, thoughtful citizen with multiple passions and talents. And it doesn’t stop there. Life is a journey punctuated by triumphs and setbacks, not a grand ambition to an end.

My son once crystallized what I most needed to hear in my state of eco-mania: “Mom, just keep it real.” Always the consummate bullshit detector, he has taught me to walk the talk and that detachment is critical to a loving relationship.

Nevertheless, if it weren’t for eco-moms, our environments would be more polluted and more corporate criminals would be deciding whose babies get to grow up healthy and whose don’t. Activist mothers continue to be on the forefront of demanding accountability by industry and government for the safety of products and services. Heroines like Lois Gibbs and Wangari Maathai come to mind, as do other brave souls we’ve never heard of.

So here’s a Mother's Day toast to eco-moms for your fighting spirit! And when it comes to kids, there are a few things I’ve learned. Don’t sweat the pursuits over which you have absolutely no control. Setting an example is worth a thousand rules. And teaching values works better in the long run than promulgating regulations.

Comments (1)add
Written by amy kaplan , May 11, 2010
Marita, having "been there, done that," with each of my sons in their own unique ways -- and some of it was very scary-- I second what you say.

Oh, yeah! (And I am glad they are mostly grown now).
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Eco Tip

Unplug appliances when not in use. Your electronics—computers, TVs, phone chargers—use energy even when they're turned off. Stand-by power can account for as much as 20% of home energy use. Save both energy and money by unplugging your devices, or put them on a power strip that you can turn off when they are not in use.  More tips...

Eco Quote

We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do. - Barbara Ward, Only One Earth, 1972   More quotes...