Minimalist Parents - Practice and Model Mindful Consumerism
In 1975, my family came to America as refugees from Vietnam, wide-eyed, bedazzled of gleaming, well-packaged consumer goods on the grocery store shelves and malls displays. We assumed that if they were good enough for the citizens of the most powerful nation in the world, then surely they were good enough for us.
We didn’t question their integrity, sources, and impact these items have on our bodies or the environment. Then I learned differently.
In 1979, I took a cluster course of 17 units called Man and the Environment, which included Ecology, Biology, Anthropology, Geology, and Natural Science. Besides lectures and lab, we took week-long field trips to the Grand Canyon, Arizona; Mono Lake, Morrow Bay, California; Baja, Mexico. It was a study of the interrelationships among the anthropological, biological and geological aspects of man and the natural environment.
It was in this first semester in college, when I started re-thinking about consumerism and its impact on our bodies and environment.
Fast forward to 1998, when our children were five and eight years old. We packed them lunches with wheat bread, alfalfa sprouts, cheddar cheese, and turkey, or PB&J, but always with a piece of fruit. One day, we didn’t have apples or any other store-bought fruit, so my husband picked two perfectly ripe figs and lovingly put them in their lunch boxes. Kids at school teased our kids that they were eating grass (alfalfa sprouts), and made fun of their figs. No matter, our children enjoyed their lunches.
Here’s another example of how kids learned that it’s okay to ostracize others who don’t conform to mainstream American’s conventional wisdom about clothing as well as food. In fifth grade, our daughter’s best friend reminded her that she had already worn a blouse for an event and shouldn’t wear it again that week, or she’ll be made fun of.
There are three points to my story
Firstly, manufacturers and corporations subconsciously wormed their ways into our daily routines with their bombardment of ads and commercials on what to eat, wear, and behave to benefit their bottom line.
Currently, the Quick-Fashion industry is thriving and further degrades our water and environment, increasing their disregards for laborers, their wages, and living conditions.
Secondly, kids learned early to make fun of other kids,
for not wearing the same brands that they’re wearing, not eating the same mass-produced foods that they are eating, and not following the wardrobe rules that the fashion industry designed for their consumers.
Lastly, as parents and consumers, we must support each other and teach our children to be kind and be accepting of those who are different than them.
We need to role model on showing respect other cultures, ethnicities, physical attributes, or their lifestyle choices in food, clothes, hobbies different from the mainstreams e.g. drawing, writing, reading, etc.
Teach Children Kindness & Role Model Mindful Consumerism
Kindness and tolerance seem to be eroding, and it starts with us, to impart our knowledge and role model for our children. This letter is my expression of concern. Kindness and intentional consumerism start at home where parents have an enormous power to make a difference.
Have Patience while Practice Consistency with Mindful Consumerism
Nobody knows everything, but we can learn. Our Minimalism journey begins with respect and compassion. There are a lot that we can learn and share with each other. Beginners learn from advanced practitioners, and without judgment or ridiculing one another. We can also do more with signing petitions in causes that will preserve our environment, air, and water. We can be an agent of change by our consumer’s habits, voting with our wallets, and letting companies know what we want or don’t want for ourselves and children.
Have Confidence in Practicing Mindful Consumerism
We get confronted with skepticism and criticism when we don’t fit into a mold of what is conventional and traditional. It takes grit to stand up for our values and beliefs, but this, I'm willing to do, as I owe it to myself, my community, and a country that kindly took me in as a refugee where I can thrive and contribute freely. Will you join me?