Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Public Garbage

We are the product of our parents. For the most part, unless we make a conscious decision to behave differently from them when we become parents, we find ourselves repeating the same phrases, using the same gestures, and making the same mistakes.

I try hard to parent consciously. To not just react, but to choose how I act. To choose what I say and how I say it. However, sometimes, I just react. And sometimes, I realize after the moment has passed, I should not have reacted as I did.

I found myself rethinking my actions over the last few days on the issue of garbage. Yes, garbage. But not just any old garbage. Public garbage.

At the playground the other day, Eamon picked up a used slurpee cup and straw. "Yuck!" I called to him. "Drop it!" I commanded. He did, and then later picked it up again to play with - with his mouth. GROSS!!  I called him over and explained to him that he shouldn't touch garbage.

You see, I have this thing with public garbage. It's gross and dirty, and covered in bad germs. I know this to be true because my mom told me.

While my parents are good community minded people, and have done more than their fair share of volunteering throughout the years, picking up garbage was something they never did, nor thought we should do. When I belonged to 4H many years ago, I'm certain there was a highway cleanup organized at least one of the years I belonged. Obviously, we were otherwise occupied that weekend.

So, when I saw Eamon pick up the garbage, my first response was to shout out to him to drop it.

But then, as life so often does, three unrelated events have made decide I was wrong and I should have told him to throw it out instead. In fact, if I'd just thrown it out when Eamon first had the garbage, it wouldn't have gone anywhere near his lips.

Event #1: I discovered that Eamon's preschool will be doing a garbage pick up in the spring on the grounds around the playschool.

Event #2:  As I was telling Eamon to not touch the garbage, a mom I was with picked up and threw out the garbage. And it looked pretty easy. Easy enough that Eamon (or I) could have done it. By the way, I received an e-mail from this mom a few days later, so I know the picking up of garbage didn't harm her in any way.

Event #3:  A Facebook post from a friend that is part of the city's clean up challenge. She's done it so long with her two boys they can now just go out and do it themselves. The numerous comments on her post were positive.

Clearly, these events occurred over a four day period to show me that picking up garbage is a good neighbourly thing to do and it won't actually harm me (needles and other truly nasty bits aside).

So thank you Danielle, Lisette and Lita. Your work here is done and mine is just beginning.


  1. Vinyl gloves and tongs. That's what I would use to touch public garbage.

  2. I think it's important to let kids know HOW to handle garbage, especially if they're going to be a part of a clean-up challenge. I think you did right in encouraging Eamon to drop the garbage first. I don't see anything wrong with kids not handling garbage, but asking an adult to deal with it. It's not just germs that you have to worry about these days...there are a lot of horrible, unexpected things out there.