But with Mother’s Day approaching, it always gives me pause to think about how I am doing as a Mom. Are my boys happy? How healthy are they? They look clean, but where’s that smell coming from? Do they laugh enough? Am I teaching them what it means to be socially responsible people? Are they learning the importance of generosity? Are they compassionate?
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating how to help my boys understand that there are children in other countries who don’t have the abundance we enjoy. At 8 and 11, my boys can’t comprehend a life without video games, trips to the cinema and treat nights at Dairy Queen. (The boys LOVE when I’ve had a particularly stressful day, and ice cream is the remedy!) There is such inequality and injustice in the world – and while I want my children to enjoy the innocence of childhood as long as possible, I also feel responsible for raising them to be socially conscious adults.
We are only one family, and I am only one person. Quite often, I feel like I am not doing enough to reach out and help those in need, or enough to teach my boys what it means to live caring, compassionate lives. In a family where both my husband and I work full-time, let’s be honest: Along with managing the demands of keeping up with school permission trip forms, homework and the needs of growing children, it can be exhausting to do the basics, let alone try to reach beyond.
Lately, however, I’ve come to a realization: I’m not going to accomplish this all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is there a quick and easy way to teach my boys how to be the caring and aware people I desire for them to be. I simply need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
Since starting in my role at Ten Thousand Villages, I’ve discovered that Fair Trade shopping is actually a great opportunity to teach my boys about the ways we can impact the lives of others through our choices. (Just say the word “shopping” and I’m in!) Throughout the year, my non-shopper boys now request trips to Ten Thousand Villages. And at Christmas, I’ve made visiting Villages a special excursion. I allow them as much time as they want to explore the store and seek out the perfect gifts for their teachers, while ensuring I make the most of our time together by having a variety of casual conversations:
- Countries – My 8-year-old is particularly fascinated to read the tags and learn where the products were made. When we go home, we take the time to locate them on the map.
- Artisan Images – Throughout the store are pictures of the artisans who make the products. It’s a great opportunity to connect my boys to the fact that there are many similarities, as well as vast differences, between life here and in the developing world.
- Products – My boys love to talk about how all the products are made by hand, and they find the ones that are made of recycled materials especially fascinating. It’s a great opportunity to discuss how life is different in the country where it was made, along with issues of earth care and recycling.
- Fair Wage – We talk about how buying a gift for their teacher in a Fair Trade store has provided people in developing countries the opportunity to earn a fair wage, and it also allows artisans to send their kids to school. The boys can definitely connect to times when we’ve told them we don’t have the money for something they love (although, to be honest, school isn’t ALWAYS on the list of things they love!).
- Child Labour – When we look at the products and talk about the people who made them, I always use it as a chance to explain that, when we buy Fair Trade, we know the product was not made by a child working long days out of necessity, instead of attending school.
When we find the perfect gift, we always ask for Ten Thousand Villages’ product information sheet, and take the time to read it before wrapping it up. Through this, my boys connect tangibly with a world they’ve never experienced.
This is just one of the ways we are being intentional about ensuring our children understand Fair Trade. I’d love for you to comment below and share ways you are instilling in your children a sense of social responsibility.
This Mother’s Day, as I reflect on the past year and my efforts, I’m okay with not winning the Mother of the Year Award – but I’m guaranteed hugs and kisses from my boys who are growing, learning and taking steps toward becoming loving, compassionate, socially aware global citizens. (Oh, and hopefully I’m also guaranteed a beautiful, Fair Trade gift!)
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