When attempting to teach our son, Matthew, about the importance of taking good care of the world in which we live, I'm well aware that I walk a very thin line -- even a hint of preachiness lands me in Charlie Brown's "wah wah wah" adult-speak territory.
Once in a while, a natural opportunity presents itself. For some time now, we've been trying to get our little wastrel to tear paper towels and toilet paper "on the line" after a certain number of squares. When he does it correctly, I lavish him with praise, then explain that paper comes from trees, we have to chop down trees to make paper, we don't want to chop down trees, we love trees. Trees give us our beautiful green leaves and shade in the summer and colorful, crunchy leaves in the fall. (I think I'll wait until he turns 6 next month for the whole greenhouse effect discussion, though I expect a debate.) Not to mention that paper towels and toilet paper cost money, and that Mommy won't have that money for ices at the playground. Eyes on me!
On less successful occasions, the impulsivity monster takes hold. Example: One day last week, Matthew spilled his juice. (I can no longer remember if it was an accident or on purpose, or if he admitted to doing it or blamed it on Baby Dinosaur.) No biggie. I told him to get one paper towel and wipe up it up. After his repeated "You do it!" went unheeded, he lunged for the roll, grabbed the end and gleefully darted off, paper towel holder spinning wildly.
Our kid runs express much of the time, requiring a lightning-quick reaction. I managed to snatch about half the 15 towels back and stopped him in his tracks. (This scenario is a big improvement over the days when he'd make a mad dash for the bathroom, a whole roll streaming behind him; he thought it would be hilarious to "flood the potty" with them.)
After I got my now-compliant cutie to wipe up the juice and join me for my little money-doesn't-grow-on-the-trees-we-love spiel, I got backup from an unexpected source. Lately, Matthew has been pining for plums; he must have had a sweet, juicy one on a play date. (I know my neighbors, and it's a pretty safe bet that plum was organic, too.) I've been promising I'll buy some, and it was as if I were watching a light bulb -- low energy, of course -- go off over our budding environmentalist's head when he pronounced: "Without trees, we wouldn't have plums!"
Now if I could just get him to stop taking fistfuls of tissues to wipe his nose. On the other hand, he isn't using his shirt, which would then have to be washed...