Hardest Lesson Learned

Today is Earth Day. The lesson my son took away from today came in the spaces in between. This is the nature of unschooling though.

I picked out a lot of our books this morning, before he woke up, about topics related to recycling, rain forest preservation, and caring for our Earth. I inflated our globe beach ball and set it out near the books. He walked into the living room, saw it and said, “really?!” I think it amused him. It reminded him what today was and he immediately wanted to bike to the park to pick up trash. No reading of books was necessary.

He grabbed a plastic bag for trash and stuffed it in his pocket. We got ready and headed out. Once we were almost there, he felt in his pocket for the bag and realized it had fallen out or been left behind. We went on with cleaning up the park, found some treasures that had to be kept and then headed back toward home.

About a block and a half away from home I spotted his bag and pointed it out to him. It had blown into someone’s yard. I stopped my bike and waited for him to go pick it up but he told me he wasn’t going to. I asked if he wanted me to cross the street with him or hold his treasures. No. I expressed that since he had brought the bag and lost it, that it was his responsibility to collect it. It was the right thing to do. He waited near me, in the hopes that I would just go pick it up. I could have. This seemed important. He was a bit afraid or embarrassed to go into someone’s yard. I wanted to support him in this.

I had a whole story going in my head that kept me so calm during all this. My parents would’ve just yelled or threatened, but that wasn’t even it. I thought of all the people who suggest that we need to “discipline” our children to teach them responsibility. “Kids these days…” This was so hard and yet so simple. I just had to be there for him and let him know that doing the right thing was important.

He even rode his bike away from me and went home briefly, although it seemed like an eternity while I stood along the road with my bike. I knew he’d come back and he knew I’d still be there in that spot. When he came back, he said some angry things. I listened. And waited. Finally, the wind blew the bag out of the yard and down the street. B chased it down, tucked it into his pocket and raced for home.

That was it. A big lesson in accountability. The best takeaway for this Earth Day, or any day, really.