Parenting in the Age of Climate, Brooklyn Public Library

Parenting in the Time of Climate Change Part II: Geraldine Patrick at the BPL

Concerned About Parenting? Try Humbling Yourself And Paying Attention

Last month, about fifty parents gathered at Brooklyn Public Library thanks to a series that they put together with 350 Brooklyn called Climate Wednesdays

At the talk our moderator Tom Roderick asked people to share their feelings. Anger, anxiety, fear, incertitude, overwhelming thoughts, self-blame or guilt, unrest, despair… all were expressed, in words or in body language –even in weeping faces. We, the speakers who had been featured on the events page as ‘experts’ presented ourselves as non-experts, but as proactive parents trying to figure out how to stand in a world so fragile. 

What I had jotted down a few days before the talk had been this: children are essentially Wisdom bringers, Truth tellers, Keepers of the word and Messengers of original principles of life. Such is the impression I have of children, and I referred to those aspects indirectly, using some brief anecdotes. What might catch the eye is that I consider they are ‘keepers of the word’. Yes: when they are very small they quickly acquire a concept of what keeping the word means; and they hold high hopes when a sacred pact is set with their adult party for the first time. I’m talking of an agreement such as, if I do my chores on time, you’ll take me to play in the park, or, you’ll get me a teddy bear if I give my best at school. But when the adult breaks the pact –even if out of mere distraction or obliviousness— we may have lost the precious opportunity to raise a child that trusts the word –and world– of adults. If parents/tutors carry on disregarding or disrespecting what keeping the word means, socializing stages and emotional intelligence may be severely affected. It may then become very difficult for the child to advance some initiative within the family, the school or broader community spheres. Whatever we as adults do to repair that condition of mistrust, we must openly show that we believe in the words and intentions of our child, leaving room for them to come up with creative ideas and supporting them all the way. Urgency is such that we can only humble ourselves, recognize our mistake and offer to keep the word of commitment so to co-participate in creating harmonious and sustainable livelihoods. 

In this humbling process, we adults need to pay attention to many of our own actions, for, aren’t we trying to model a way of life that makes sense to our children and motivates them to stand up? So here go some introspective questions that I didn’t get to share with the parents that day, but that might help us to pay attention on a daily basis:

Are we living each day in gratefulness for who brought us to the world, starting with the first of mothers, Mother Earth?

Are we honoring each of the four elements of life on every occasion?

Are we giving life back to the plants and animals whose lives we take?

Are we showing what a responsible consumer cares for in all scales of time and space? 

Are we considering all externalities involved in what we produce or consume?

Are we growing at least some of our own food, however small or large it may be in proportion to our needs? Are we respecting seasonal cycles and preferring local produce so to reduce footprints?

Are we showing that we care for human communities of all sociocultural conditions that live within and are related to ecological communities under some current or future level of threat, and in so doing, are we listening to those we offer to support and work with? 

As we wake up every morning, let us go over these and similar questions, and also schedule time to continue sharing what it means to be parenting in these very sensitive times, when building endurance and resilience with wisdom and love is crucial. Thank you Amy Adelman and Tom Roderick for the opportunity to share with all parents and especially with Liat and Nikki.

 

Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina is an Original Caretakers Fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics and a Scholar in Residence at Union Theological Seminary.