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Mommy's Little Conservationist

Offering yet more proof that children
really do listen to what we say, Maddie’s becoming quite the
little eco-conscious consumer.

The other day I set out to pile us post-pool into the shower for a
quick chlorine rinse, and turned on the water before stripping down
the girls. With our bathroom on the second floor and the water
heater in our garage, it can sometimes take a good two minutes for
the hot water to reach us. Maddie looked at the empty, running
shower and said, “Why did you turn the water on before we get

Struggling to peel a swim diaper off a snug wet hiney, I said,
“Well, we need the water to get hot first so we’re not
cold when we get wet.”

Maddie looked anxiously at the empty shower, the water running down
the drain, and said, “But you’re wasting all that
water, Mommy! Turn it off now!”

Similarly, we found ourselves in the
bathroom yesterday in another attempt to pee in the big potty and
earn that popsicle, and in frustration I turned on the sink, trying
to encourage the peeing experience. “Mommy, are you going to
wash your hands?” “No, puppy, I’m turning on the
water because sometimes it helps you go pee if you hear running

Again the anxious face looked up and said, “Mommy,
that’s not helpful, it’s just wasteful! Turn it off,

Now, I know I’m big on the environment, but I’m also
fairly certain I’m not “that” woman – the
one following closely on everyone’s heels, shutting off
lights the minute someone leaves the room or fretting over how much
water’s put in a pot to boil pasta. I have tried to instill
basic energy-saving routines into Maddie, like shutting off her air
purifier when she gets up from her nap or turning off the light
after she washes her hands. And I’ve explained that
it’s not only helping us save money, but that being good
stewards of the resources we’re given is pleasing to God and
respectful of others. So yes, we’ve discussed it –
perhaps more than most households – but not to the extent
that she’s calculating how to reduce her eco-footprint by
using her dollhouse mini-van less or anything.

I do know that she’s overheard much of my everyday
conversation, though, and not just the lessons I’ve
intentionally set out to teach her. This weekend we made a dish
that calls for crustless breadcrumbs on top, and I ended up with
the crusts of six bread slices. Not wanting to waste food, I took
Maddie out into our side yard and we sat companionably on the patio
for several minutes, crumbling up pieces to toss out for a birdie
snack. All I’d said about the endeavor was that we were going
to toss our extra bread pieces to the birds – we often do
such things with leftover pieces of her unfinished sandwiches
– but as we sat there tearing and tossing Maddie called out,
“C’mon birdies! Better it goes in your tummies than in
the landfills!”

Yes, she’s clearly been listening when I speak. To other

There may come a day when I worry that she’s going too far
with this thing – conserving our Earth’s resources is a
huge issue, and Maddie’s the type to worry over something she
can’t fix. Or she may simply geek out on the subject and
become the kid everyone tries not to sit next to on the bus, lest
her home-made hemp skirt touches them. And at that point I’ll
know I’ve got to get my kid to lighten up.

For now, though, I’m glad she’s learning at an early
age, and am happy to see the habits are becoming ingrained.

A couple weeks ago we all sat eating our lunch, Maddie drinking the
bottled water we’d had to pick up for her while out. My
mother, in the midst of some art project or something, asked Maddie
if she could have the plastic bottle when Maddie was finished with
it. Looking at my mother with regret at not being able to help
mixed in with the slightest hint of a grownup needing to teach a
slow child an important lesson, Maddie shook her head and said,
“No, Gamma, no. I need to recycle this bottle when I’m

That’s my girl.


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