I recently listened to a podcast by a fellow minimalist mom who described her path to parenthood as one littered with anxiety. She describes how having children forces her to face the reality of her life. It made her anxious about the state of the planet and her legacy there. She speaks of the anxiety of the future she contributes to for her children.
I sympathise with this woman but I also wonder if she isn’t stuck in a story. The way she talks about the anxiety in her life, I wondered what powers she attributes to herself to change that story and that of her children. What kind of life is she leading and wanting her children to mirror?
Do as I say not as I do
There is something I learn every day from my kids: children copy everything. I’m still stunned when my son or daughter utter phrases they could have only heard from me. Or they would do things the same way I had done them previously.
The other day my daughter didn’t want to go to sleep. I was watching a documentary about the scientific evidence about climate change. Because she kept coming out of her bed, I invited her to join me. I thought she wouldn’t be interested and jokingly said to her that she could join me and “learn something for life”. She didn’t stay too long because, as I thought, it was too boring for her. So, she went back to her bed and eventually fell asleep.
The next day, however, as she was getting ready for bed, she asked me if she could stay up again and “learn something for life”. I grinned. Yes, I want her to learn something but not at the expense of sleep. I told her that tonight she wouldn’t learn much for life because I was also going to bed early. She was disappointed, not realising that I was teaching her another valuable skill: to value sleep over watching TV. The next day, she woke up rested and ready to learn for life.
This little encounter really showed me again that my kids pick up much more from what I do than from what I say. I could have told my daughter about the difference between watching TV and choosing to go to bed early. It wouldn’t have mattered though. It was more important for her to see what I was doing.
Anxiety creates anxiety
There is a truth in my little story I want to highlight: we pass on every trait we have to our children. And that doesn’t just apply to the good ones but especially to the ones, we don’t want them to take on.
You have most likely heard that children also learn fears from their caregivers. My son still talks about a redback spider we had in our garage in Australia. He thinks it’s funny how I screeched over that. It’s lucky though that he thinks that’s funny and that there are no dangerous spiders in Sweden.
But the point is that my anxiety and fears carry easily over to my children. And that is the precise reason why I don’t talk to my children about my perception of their future.
I am very anxious when it comes to the fact that my children will not live the same life I was fortunate to live. Their future looks darker and scarier than mine had at their age. Climate change is disrupting their lives already and it’s only touching mine now, after almost four decades of stability and bliss.
The future is ours to create
The reason I don’t talk about my anxiety with my kids is that I don’t want to get stuck in that story. Yes, I am afraid. But I also know that to create the future I want, I have to be aware of the power I have to do so.
It creates a lot of stress for me to take on a story of anxiety and fear. Giving in to thoughts about the state of the world and how I respond to that emotionally creates anxiety I can’t shake.
So I chose differently. I chose to create a future with the emotions about climate change in mind. I take the power I have over my life and I make a difference through my attitude and actions. And I know that it will give my children the ability to make choices about their own lives as well. As long as they see me as the one contributing to the change I want to see in the world, they will do the same.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in my Udemy course “Develop personal respond-ability in times of climate change”. It’s available now!