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Mining and Me

3 May, 2016

My Nana’s dad, Grandad Tom, was a miner in Maesteg, in the Valleys, Wales. My Grandma’s dad a miner in Mexborough, Up North, as we say, in a funny Northern accent. I can mimic a Yorkshire accent without mocking because I had one so broad that when I was seven and moved to London I had to change schools within two weeks because my teacher couldn’t understand the long, cheerful vowels of my Yorkshirish.

My mum grew up in the Valleys, along the road from the mine Grandad Tom tunnelled into. But her dad, my bottomlessly jolly Grandad Derrick, wasn’t a miner but a minister to the miners, a chaplain. My mum’s family lived and worked in the village below Aberfan at the time of the huge slip that poured slurry into the school, unspeakable tragedy.

My mum and Aunty and Uncle went to another school, but the sorrow soaked into their lives, seeped through the Valleys. My Grandad stayed up for three days and three nights, laying out the bodies in the church hall. 116 children and 28 adults.

My parents became ministers and years after Aberfan, found themselves embedded in the mining communities closer to my other Great, Great Grandad. My sister and I were toddlers during the Miner’s Strikes, our nursery rhymes were chants about putting Maggie Thatcher in the bin.

So it is that for much of my life, the word “miner” has felt like mine; part of my heritage, my family, the people I stand with. And yet, this week, when I took my daughters for a foraging walk in town (we’d heard there were whole hedges of enormous, juicy feijoas and great trees scattering walnuts) my youngest clung to my legs and wouldn’t walk. She was afraid. “The miners are gonna grab me, take me away.” The walk was around the rim of Waihi’s Martha Mine, the fruit trees are those left over from the backyards of the houses demolished as a small mountain was scooped away into a huge gaping hole.

“Miner’s aren’t bad people, my love. They can be nice! Like my two great, great Grandads and my old next door neighbours. The companies they work for tend to not be very nice…”

It’s a subtlety lost. The anti-mining protests and the slogan-writing sessions we’ve been involved with have left their mark. In trying to help my family understand why I cared so much, I’d once described mining as modern day privateering, pillaging for gold. My daughters were left with sense that miners had hooks and fiercesome facial hair. And that they wanted to kidnap young children whilst they were busy licking feijoa from their fingers.

You see, we live now in New Zealand, at the base of a mountain, Mount Karangahake, the northern peak of a blanket of mountains, the brood of ancient volcanic release.
on land- Anti Mining New Zealand

When you climb it, 5 hours there and back from our gate, Tim and I did it to celebrate ten years of marriage, you have to stick to the path in case you fall down a mining shaft. The whole thing is like honeycomb, riddled with tunnels from which some made a fortune back in the 1880s.

This holey mountain is not mine in the way that it is anothers, a more indigenous people’s. But I belong to it as I belong to every part of the earth. Something of its dirt is in my bones, these days it is stirring from a lifelong dormancy.

At one recent protest to protect Mount Karangahake from the fate of Mount Waihihi a representative of the local Iwi spoke of how his ancestors would be down at the river, the Ohinemuri, swimming, washing and fishing, and a bell would ring and they’d all climb out. With a huge gush the miners would empty their tunnels into the river and the water would turn black with mercury and cyanide and they’d wait until it seemed clear enough before carrying on with the day to day tasks their village had been going about for a thousand years.

(Even today, one of our neighbours tells us that one of the ponds up there can’t be fished because the water is still so toxic.)

He spoke with anger that a mountain so honoured, and these days so officially part of conservation land, has been handed over again to goldspinners. He reminded us that the Martha Mine was also once a sacred mount, source of life for Maori. And now it is a gash that makes your jaw drop when you view it on Google Maps.

(A government website describes Waihi in 1884, just before the first mine was established as “a bare knoll with a nearby hotel.” The government, since forever, forsaking the truth of a place.)

Tim’s great, great, great, great Grandad and his brother  were some of the first to discover gold in these hills. Sons of Mere Tipona, Maori boys in Victorian waistcoats, reaping in colonial ways.

But perhaps it wasn’t such brazen desecration back then. Or perhaps it is simply that the ends justify the means. Loving hearts, destructive hands. Then and now.

I’ve been at an anti-mining strategy meeting where another young Maori man has clenched his fists and spoken of the betrayal of elite Maori who gave permission to the government to sell the mountain’s innards all over again.

It is hard to believe there can be anything left, but we’ve seen the massive graceless drilling machines that they’ve just rolled up the Gorge and we’ve read the District Council’s approval for the mining company’s traffic management plan. They mean business.

Of course there are Maori for the mining. For Maori, it is people that trump all else, and they’ve been hammered with the vision of more jobs – if mining means their people can make ends meet than of course they must welcome it.

And then there are Maori who see that no one can thrive when the land under your feet is being torn apart. The local iwi vow to stand by the mountain.

The whole town is divided down these lines.

One half hoping beyond hope that the sink holes in the netball courts, the cracks in the pavement, the noon explosions, the collapsed houses, the open sore, the weekly evacuation siren tests, that it will be worth it for their families, in the long run. That they will get a taste of the wealth. This in a region where joblessness hovers as tangibly as the North Winds it is named for, where literally as I type here in the library a couple next to me discuss the redundancy package the supermarket has just offered them.

The other half believing that, even in this landscape, they can protect what has been entrusted to them.

As I stood on the rim of the Martha Mine, one tiny daughter still clutching my skirt to her face, fear set in her bones, the other daughter biting the tops off the feijoas and sucking out the middle, I felt myself a kind of leaden terror.

At 5am that morning, seven hours before, there had been a slip – two million tonnes of rock roared down the northern side of the open pit. Chunks as big as houses, obliterating the pathways carved into the sides, upon which we’ve previously watched small trucks glide along. Anti Mining New Zealand

A laminated sign had been pinned to the fence “this slip was not unexpected” – their monitoring supposed to assuage a sense of wrongness.

The week it becomes clear that mining in the area will continue with fervour, that drills will burrow unabashedly into one of New Zealand’ most important ecological corridors, the earth heaves and a quarter of the local pit collapses.

Maori folklore depicts the mountains here as warriors, fighting for kingdoms and creating rivers from their restlessness.

That morning a warrior, body broken, spits in anger.

The spill can’t go far, only back into its wrathful, dying mouth.

We climbed into the car, drove back to Mount Karangahake, a few miles along the Ohinemuri, the girls with a small pile of feijoas on their laps.

No walnuts though. They were black on the outside and black on the inside. When you squeezed them between the heels of your palms they exploded into a cloud of black dust.

I am thankful to the Craftivist Collective for providing a way to take action on an issue that can be done in the slowness of my life, that can sit amongst the song of the trees. This cross stitch is on the path up the mountain and I hope it makes people wonder – could they possibly be gold mining this conservation land?

Please help us protect an ecological important and beautiful New Zealand most mountain by signing the petition.

Anti Mining Craftivism New Zealand

Craftivism on Mt Karangahake

References:
Local Iwi vow to fight for mount Karangahake
Sinkhole in the netball courts

Feminism

International Women’s Day 2016 Blog Link Up

7 March, 2016

It is International Women’s Day today And this is the main page for the International Women’s Day Blog Link UP! Scroll down for to read the awesome collection of blogs.

My parents are over from England at the moment so we have fetched up at a beach for a few days, leaving my husband at home to get on with sorting stuff out. (Basics like, er, hot water…)

On the way up we stopped in at the library to pick up some reads and my eyes glanced the title “Women can’t park, men can’t pack” and my chest spluttered with a sort of ironic/mad laugh. Seconds earlier, just before popping into the library, I had spotted my rucksack in the boot, and sub consciously registered that my husband had repacked it. (There shouldn’t really be a “re” in there because what I had done was grab all our stuff and then shoved fistfuls of it into deep dark corners of the bag, and then realized it wasn’t going to fit in enough to do the zip up, so instead I had just pushed it up against the car window and piled other holiday flotsam around it to stop our clothes spilling out.) And there it was now, my ruck sack, all zipped up, our stuff all sorted.

He packs like a boss. And does dishes like a boss. And laundry too. He is a domestic goddess.

I, on the other hand, am the actual opposite of a domestic goddess… which, I guess, ah, makes me a domestic devil.

Or perhaps mortal. Perhaps we can go with domestic mortal.

(Although Domestic Tasmanian Devil is probably the thing that sums me up best… five minutes before people come, rampaging around the house throwing things behind sofas and into baskets and pushing toys under the bed and draping beautiful throws over The Piles. Followed around by two even wilder baby Tasmanian devils doing their own Special Thing.)

I may be a domestic Tasmanian devil but I park like a boss. I am renowned in our local town for it. The people on the street, when I’m lining up for a parallel park, often pause as they walk along, just to observe my skill. As I swiftly (but with matchless ease and care) maneuver into a seriously tight spot I hear their murmurs “She’s done it again! Cracking job.”

There are so many ways in which almost all the men and women I know blow gender stereotypes out of the water. But yet people keep on keeping on with their ideas about certain things coming naturally to women or innate in men.

Stereotypes like this are so, SO much to do with keeping women in their place and we need to dismantle them! Even if it involves taking a stupid stereotyping book up to the librarian who is already grumpy with you because you let the overdue fines rack up! (I’m totally doing them a favour right, letting books go overdue and paying them money? Hellooo)

They start when our children are tiny! Just yesterday in the swimming pool a mum of two boys said to my mum who was sitting with my two girls “I’ve told my boys that they have to watch out around your girls, I’ve told them girls aren’t boisterous like boys!!” I overheard my mum saying something back about Ramona and Juno being able to stick up for themselves which was great (and did also make me feel like she was egging them on a bit, verging on  I’ll put a tenner on Juno being able to knock your wee fella out)

If a whole society believes that one gender is brilliant at doing gentle things in the home and another gender is best  at doing all the boisterous “out and about” things then everything will continue to be set up to support that.

Workplaces will continue to not let men cut down their hours so they can share in childcare.
Governments will maintain forty year old parental leave policies.
Homes will continue to have a gendered division of labour.

What a load of crap.

We need to come up with a few succinct phrases we can spill when someone pops up with a stereotype like this.

“Oh ha, yeah ha ha (BEGIN WITH A BENIGN CHUCKLE ALWAYS) actually most scientific evidence suggests the differences between the male and female brains are negligible”

“Hehehehe the thing with stereotypes like that is that they perpetuate the patriarchy and therefore contribute to things like women getting paid less than men in 90% of sectors, rape and even human trafficking”

“Hahaa there’s absolutely no way on earth you have bought your child up gender neutrally and seen innate gender difference emerge! As soon as a child is born they are labeled one or the other and treated as such in every minute of everyday SO DON’T TELL ME IT CAN’T BE DENIED THAT BOYS JUST SIMPLY LOVE WHEELS WHEN MY LITTLE GIRL IS WHEELING A TRUCK AROUND OUR FEET AS WE SPEAK COS IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE YOU ARE WANTING TO LIMIT MY DAUGHTER AND HER ACCESS TO THINGS AND SHE’S ONLY TWO!!!!”

I totally suck at those information filled yet snappy retorts.

So yeah, there I was in the library, feeling firey, ready to rage, but when I opened it, I saw it actually wasn’t a Venus vs Mars book, but a look at stereotypes and why we are so ready to believe and perpetuate them. Ah. Saved.

I’ll be ready to go the very next time though. Me (also known as Tasmanian Devil Parallel Park Rockstar in some circles) and my two fierce girls.

~

Iwd 2016 blog Link up

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY BLOG LINK UP
Today is International Women’s Day and over 30 awesome writers joined up as part of a blog link up. The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 was Pledge for Parity and there were contributions from so many areas. I began pulling these together by saying “this brilliant post” and “this fascinating” but I discovered quickly that I would soon get monotonous in my use of adjectives! So please just trust that each one of these contributions is BRILLIANT! Hehe.

I really enjoyed the posts that described influential women, either relatives or well known women. These are always an inspiration to read. There was this powerful story of a mother and daughter, Becky looked at Rosa Parks, Federica described her Grandmother’s life, as did Slummy Single Mummy, Ali garnered opinion on a few heroines, also, some of Baba Fi’s heroines are fictional but STILL INSPIRING okay!

There were quite a few contributions about empowering our children. This epic post from Sacraparental included 38 MUST HAVE phrases for a feminist household, also Rainy Day Mum and Emma and 3 discuss practical ways to raise both boys and girls in an empowered way, the way that IWD is experienced differently as a mama to a little girl compared to a little boy, and you’ll definitely appreciate the post Parity, Penises and Parenting!

There were some great ones on steretypes, Lorna, mum to three girls here, and Madeline on raising a boy that doesn’t fit society’s expectations, and the challenge of gender neutral clothing.

There were fascinating insights on some of the global issues facing womankind – maternal health and the way that poverty is sexist, the nuances of the gennder pay gap in NZ, a showcase of some awesome woman-empowering clothing.

I loved this scathing look at the visual expectations of women, which also reminded me of Lissa’s poem about needing to simply just be US.

We followed one woman through IWD as it happened, a look at how quickly the “Crazy Lady Card” is pulled out, and got some insight into the sexism throughout the STEM industry.

And some of my faves were on the topic of parity beginning at home- Owl and the Accordian, Seeds and Stitches, Mel Wiggins, and Jenny from the Block. Along these lines too was a really intriguing look at an exhibition of the lists we make!

THANK YOU so much to all those of you who joined in.

 

Activism

if we could give you a welcome

5 September, 2015

We’re grieving for you
and it’s not enough

Our tears spill as we type our name
our post code
tick the box
to say we’re British

We sign all the petitions,
the official ones, our friend’s ones
I’m number 131,678 on the independent’s one
and it only started this morning.

Our tears and our signatures
it’s all we’ve got
you can have it
please take them.
They’re not enough.

There’s a tescos filling crates
tents and air beds and toiletries

We’re all bagging jumpers
its going to get so cold
socks, thick socks
gloves too

Mums are organising car loads
and another bunch of hipsters
have filled their third van.

We give you our solidarity
and our dried packaged goods
Please take them. I know.
They’re not good enough.

We’ve got our streets and our neighbourhoods
and it would be enough.

We’d make you a coffee
and the kids would hide
under the table
and eat frubes

And you’d work close by
and wave at me in the garden

And you’d feel welcome
and safe
here

The ‘you’ would go, and the ‘we’ would leave
and it’d just be us

It would be enough.

We’re in bits
but we’ve nothing to give.

Our words and our names
and our supermarket crates

don’t make up for immigration policy
or border police

all we have for your lost
is not enough.

refugees welcome

Please consider supporting the #savesyriaschildren campaign, you can text SYRIA to 70008 to give £5 to Save the Children. Thanks to Annie for the photo- if you’d like to join in do take your own photo or use one of Annie’s. 

And for loads of ideas about how else to help please do check out Sacraparental

I hope to see you at the march in London on Saturday 12th. It is my birthday and I can’t think of a way I’d rather spend it.  

 

Activism, Featured, Parenting

10 habits that infringe on Rights of Children (and how to change them)

14 July, 2015

Do you dream of a fairer world, a cherished earth, a more peaceful community? And do you interact with children? As a parent or teacher or aunty or kind member of the public?

Nuzzle in, you. This post has your very name on it.

A few years ago, during my Masters at LSE, I spent three months studying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child under the tireless child rights advocate, Peter Townsend. The course was heavy but inspiring and I vowed to work on child rights for the rest of my life.

I went on to work for Oxfam as a campaigner, and imagined I would end up working on the rights of children through social policy.

And it would be easy to see me now, sitting in my pyjamas drinking tea, and wonder what happened to that vow.

But in actual fact,when it comes to human rights and social change, I feel as powerful in my role as a parent as I did as a campaigner.

When we studied the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) we covered poverty, child labour, hunger, trafficking, homelessness, but we didn’t ever look at the home and family life.

I’ve come to believe that the UNCRC can inspire us to observe children’s rights as parents and teachers and neighbours, and that this in turn this will lead to societal change that makes all those huge, global issues, much less likely to occur.  And, if we can raise a generation who have had their rights observed, the impact on global social justice will be boundless. 

Unicef say “The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.”

Unicef is slightly optimistic when it uses past tense here  – I think we are in the process of changing our view on children, but things haven’t quite got there yet. This post is going to take 10 everyday, simple habits that impede children’s rights, and consider a way to change them.

I did begin by going through the Convention, article by article, and pulling out the relevant bits – freedom to express views (article 12) and to impart information and ideas (article 13) and the right to dignity (article 23) but it got almost as heavy as my Masters, so I stopped that.

Instead, the guiding principles of the Convention, cover most bases:

All rights apply to all children without exception.

  • It is the State’s obligation to protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights.

  • All actions concerning the child shall take full account of his or her best interests. The State shall provide the child with adequate care when parents, or others charged with that responsibility, fail to do so.

  • Every child has the inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.

  •  The child has the right to express his or her opinion freely and to have that opinion taken into account in any matter or procedure affecting the child.

And actually, these guiding principles can be distilled even further, I reckon. I think most adults have a good sense of what their rights are, and when their rights are being abused or repressed. This means that it might be helpful to think about upholding child rights simply by asking the question “how would I hope to be treated in this situation?” 

Here are ten things lovers of human rights and warriors of social justice do regularly to impede the rights of children.  We can break habits, and form new ones, humans are amazing like that. Let’s do this….Habits that impede rights of child in the home (and how to change them)

1 – Taking things off children. We do it in the name of safety sometimes; snatch scissors from a toddler or a phone from a baby. Sometimes we just do it absentmindedly- we want something they have, so we just take it. This act is discriminatory – excluding children from using something that they would like to.

What to do instead: Even with the very smallest child we can ask for something back, and explain why we would like it. If we are patient, and allow them to fully process the request (for young children this can take longer than you think!) with our hand out, it is highly likely that they will return it. We can explain things to children just as we do other adults.

We can also question our motivation for taking it – is it really unsafe for a toddler to use sharp things? I don’t believe so. At all. Juno has been picking up knives with our supervision since she could first handle any items. She has learnt to use sharp things very carefully as a result. Being committed to child rights means questioning a lot of assumptions we have about our children’s abilities!

2 – Talking about children in front of them. “Ah, yeah Ramona, woke up so early this morning!” – it is such a seemingly harmless conversation to have, sharing stories about our children while they are there. But would we EVER do this to an adult? Can you even imagine it? Being in a room with a friend, discussing the toilet habits / sleeping problems/ hilarious anecdote about another friend sitting next to you? It doesn’t protect dignity and privacy and you can stop it!

What to do instead: Weigh up the reasons for sharing that anecdote. If you need advice or support, consider sharing it in private, away from your children. But you can also ask your child, if they are there, if they mind you sharing a story. Or, you can include your child in it “Oh, Ramona, you woke up early this morning didn’t you – were you super keen to get up?” – involve them in the conversation as we would an adult.  This goes even for the tiniest baby. Defend your newborns dignity and it will be a parental habit formed for their whole life.

3 – Laughing at children.  Children can be hilarious, sometimes in a purposeful way – laugh right along to their jokes. But they are also funny sometimes in an intriguing, surprising way – and I’d you to consider not laughing at children. Sometimes, adults  find it hard not to smirk, to catch each others eyes and laugh at our children as they go about their lives. Just yesterday Ramona said “Don’t laugh at me, mum!” when I had giggled at something in a kind hearted way. It pulled me up short – even our loving chuckles as they fumble a word infringe on their personhood. I love laughter and joyfulness – it has to be up to you to discern whether your laughter fits with the idea of your child as a rights bearer.

What to do instead: Consider things from their point of view . It is tough not being able to reach things you need, learning all the unwritten rules of society, figuring out who you are. The very last thing they need is “kind hearted” adults giggling along. Dwell on this and it should help you hold it together when you want to snort-in-love.

4 – Picking babies up We get rights all mixed up on this one – we think it is our right to pick up our baby. Well, erm, your baby isn’t really, exactly, yours, you see. You don’t own her. She is not a possession. She is a person. With her own body.

Or we think we are helping when we pick up another child when they’ve fallen or  a baby when they are crying. Would you like a stranger to come up to you and pick you up? Nope. It’s the same. It is.

What to do instead: The alternative isn’t not picking babies up. Babies love to be in arms, it is one of the biggest ways babies and adults connect. PICK UP BABIES! But, do what you would like to be done to you: ASK THEM! Yep, even a newborn. If babies are spoken to this way they soon respond. The “I’m going to pick you up now” spoken to a baby soon becomes “Can I give you a cuddle?” to a young child. This practice of consent from birth could change the world. 

5 – Wiping children’s noses Sometimes we do things to kids in the name of health and hygiene. Sweeping in to wipe their nose for example – I used to pride myself on a swipe that came from behind Ramona’s head, cleared all snot that wouldn’t interfere with her play time.  Yep: stepping all over her right to influence decisions that affect her.

What to do instead: Say “I see you have a wet nose, can I wipe it for you, or would you like to wipe it yourself? and then wait.  It was Pennie Brownlee that opened my eyes to the possibility that most children, if given the option to not have a huge slimeball of snot dripping into their mouth would take it! Same goes with dirty nappies- in a respectful relationship, giving the child the option to come and get their nose wiped or their nappy changed, and given time to process it, is likely to result in them coming over for a wipe/ change themselves.

6 – Deciding things without their input “Right! We are off! Let’s go, COME ON!”  The amount of times I have seen parents suddenly decide it is time to leave the park and expect their children with no warning to come right along happily! We plan our days, our holidays, our visits, our lunches, our leaving times, every thing with very little input from our children because we think we know best. And it is a complete flouting of their human right to have a say in things that impact them.

What to do instead: Give them an opportunity to influence plans. This grows with the child; they are VERY good at letting people know when they are ready to have a say! It might start with a two year old choosing what friends to have a playdate with, and then can grow into a four year old helping the family decide where to go on holiday. Contrary to what people may think, having children as fully fledged decision makers is not a burden – it is a great joy, and it leads to a far, far more harmonious family life. 

7 – Photographing (and sharing) them without permission This one that really challenges me, and I have been on quite a journey with it. (In fact, you can see that my Instagram pictures are far less frequent as I try and do this 100% consensually.  When we are snap happy and post these photos publically we are in danger of disregarding children’s right to privacy. And don’t get me started on when we use those photos to publically shame our children… *ragey face*

What to do instead I do have a couple of friends who have sworn never to post anything about their children online ever…. I, erm, am clearly not there! I simply ask their permission to take a photo, and then ask them if I can share it online.Habits that impede rights of child in the home (and how to change them)

8 – Putting children in Time Out Yeah baby I’m calling it! Time Out is a Human Right’s Abuse! Putting a child on a step and not letting them move does not allow our children to experience the right to be a full participant of the community, it erodes their dignity and suppresses their right to have a say in things that are important to them. It just shuts things down according to an adult’s, often quite arbitrary, rules.

What to do instead  In our family, we generally feel that if a hiccup has occurred, it is because the child needs MORE connection, not less. Not to be excluded from our love, but to be encompassed in it.  So we go for something that is highly connecting. Some families however, might have found Time Out to be helpful in cultivating a thinking space.  If you like rules and things, you could consider coming up with rules that EVERYONE agrees with, and then coming up with the matching consequence. A family guide book by consensus – whole schools are run on this principle. (Personally, we go for less rules, more connection.)

9 – Telling them to stop crying It is hard to hear our children crying, either because we are sad for them, or triggered by them, or because we think its not worthy of tears. We “Shush” our babies and say “Don’t be silly, cheer up” to our kids. It’s probably not surprising to hear but: every child has the right to cry, to feel things, and to express their feelings as they wish. (Even if it was because their nutella wrap got torn in two.)

What to do instead: The HuffPost recently published a great article about how accepting feelings is the last frontier in parenting. But it doesn’t have to be a huge one to change. Firstly, if we are being triggered, we need to deal with that.  And then we need to cultivate the practice of validation. “I hear you.” “You are upset”. “You wanted that.”  “It sounds like you are feeling sad.” These words of validation, of letting your child express themselves, becomes second nature when faced with tears.

10 – Telling them what to wear. I would LOVE to have kids that wear cool retro style, ironically sloganned tee shirts with perfect pineaple print shorts. Instead, Ramona and Juno tend to opt for either fourth hand pilled fleecey onesies, bright pink tutus or nothing at all. But, it is more important to me that they know they are in charge of their clothes and their body and things that effect them. Their bodies, their choice, right?

What to do instead: Create more time in the mornings for them to choose their own clothes – with support if needed, particularly at the start. And mostly stop having an opinion on what you think they should wear. It is minutiae that doesn’t impact you in the least (as far as I can see) but very much impacts a child’s perception of himself in the world.

Supporting child rights doesn’t have to mean throwing things we know to be good out the window- but we do need to make the rights of children the framework for which we hang our family life on. 

I think there are quite a lot more – for example, not forcing them to eat certain things, not forcing them to kiss or cuddle. But I feel like this list of ten is a good starting point – possibly the easiest to change. Do you have any that you are working on at the moment?

And also, before I sign off, I want to disclose fully that I am not able to say “I am a true upholder of child rights!” – some days I am great at it, and other times my only aim is to try and stay sane.  But I have absolutely seen my own child rights record improve by being committed to working on these everyday interactions between myself and the children in my life.

I want to live in a world where everyone can experience human rights – and I believe this world is being built not only in UN offices but also within kitchens, playgrounds, schools. Places where children play, where they have their rights observed. Where adults change ingrained habits and children take their place as fully human, with all the rights attached.

A fairer world begins in the home! 

This is part of my slow burning Parenting for Social Justice series. Read all about Non Violent Communication for Parents here

If you found this post helpful, please consider supporting my work on Patreon. Patrons get access to all sorts of extra stuff for as little as $1 a month.lulastic patreon

Activism

Keep it in the ground, dude

1 June, 2015

I am pleased to be joining in with the Keep It In The Ground campaign.

Some of the ways our family live these days seem like ancient ways…. we use herbs and plants to clean our hair and clothes and home, we try to make our food from scratch using veggies we’ve dug out the garden, we use the power of the sun so on a stormy day we tend to wind down, turning everything off and lighting our rooms with candles.

Sometimes its like the Flintstones meets Little House on the Prairie. Our lives are pretty simple, we harness nature’s resources, and we brush our hair alot. (Although Juno is definitely more Bamm Bamm than Pebbles.)

And then, in other ways, we are living the days I drew in my exercise book age 7 when the class was told to imagine the year 2000. We drive a hybrid car (it’s a massive honker of a thing that we needed for farm work that runs on electricity 50% of the time) and on a sunny day we can charge our laptops and devices AND run a washing machine using the sun alone! The SUN!

Like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure meets Avatar, a little bit. We are trying to live futuristically – as if the utopian world we want to live in is within grasp. Where technological advances make magic and as if all humankind, past and present, is excellent to each other…

We’ve both campaigned, and acted on climate change issues for yonks – but it was really having children in our life that made us REALLY consider what sort of a world we would be leaving them. It is a bit difficult to have that thought, and then look at your children’s beautiful, wild selves and go right ahead and continue in bad, earth hating behaviours. Keep It In The Ground Blog

Now, the thing is, hybrid cars and solar energy are expensive things to invest in, initially. But we have always believed that if you can afford to make a more ethical consumer decision, you should.

We believe this so firmly that when the Guardian got in touch to ask me to be an ambassador for their Keep It In the Ground campaign I was like HECK TO THE YES.

You see, some of the world’s richest, and most altruistic, peeps are still investing in dirty, old skool energy, entirely unnecessarily.

Earlier this year the Guardian and 350.org launched the Keep It In the Ground campaign to ask the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest its £28bn from fossil fuel assets.

We are way, WAY, beyond the safe parameters for burning fossil fuels – we should have stopped years ago. Yet not only do we continue to burn them, but companies continue to invest in the whole industry. When there are burgeoning new clean energy industries BEGGING for investment.

Climate change looms over us yet we all continue to behave as if it’s just the feeble joke of a laughable loon. We stand at the til buying more crap made from dirty, unrenewable materials, running our hands through our children’s hair, ignoring the niggling sense that our great-great-grandchildren will probably dig this very crap out of a barren ground and sink to their knees, thinking “For this?! They let our earth crumble around them for THIS?!”Keep It In The Ground Blog

We all need to do our bit, every one of us, but there is a far greater onus on those who hold the strings of the world’s biggest purses.

The Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust have done some marv stuff for the planet’s children through their health work, now its time to start investing in the planet’s future children. Divesting of dirty fuels and investing in wind, solar and hydro energy makes the vision of a clean, beautiful tomorrow tangible. It will be a massive high five for all the generations yet to be born.

We’ve got to grab fossil fuel investors by the lapels and give ’em a shake. *furious voice* We’ll do our bit to love this earth – but YOU’VE got to step up too. Find their lapels… or sign the Keep It In the Ground petition, for starters!

Bill Gates, divest of dirty fuel and embrace clean energy, it’s the future!

Activism, Featured, Parenting

Parenting for Social Justice: Non Violent Communication

16 February, 2015

This post goes out to a legend of our time who sadly passed away last week. Marshall Rosenberg dedicated his life to peace and created tools that resolved conflict in the most tricky of situations. I read his book, Non Violent Communication, and became sure that if everyone read it, and put it into practice, the world would be a much more harmonious, beautiful, just place.

I felt it had massive potential for use in the home, that the principles and methods of talking and listening could transform parent- child relationships, that it could restore connection where a disconnect had taken place.

So, I want to kick off a short blog series, Parenting for Social Justice, with Non Violent Communication. (NVC, because life’s too short.)

Who jake change begins at home- here's how

Not because I am amazing at it (I am pretty sure my beg, every early morning, “Let me sleeeeeeeeeep moooooooore because otherwise I will diiiiiieeeeeee” flouts all the NVC guidelines) but because I TRY to bring this kind of communication in my life, and I believe it is KEY in raising social justice loving children.

NVC is a strategy for communicating, but it can also be a lens through which we see life. The four components are observations, feelings, needs and requests.

First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgment or evaluation—to simply say what people are doing that we either like or don’t like. Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated? And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified. An awareness of these three components is present when we use NVC to clearly and honestly express how we are.

For example, a mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, “Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common.” She would follow immediately with the fourth component—a very specific request: “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?”

This picture shows how we can phrase what is going on for us using the four components- it is from a really helpful slideshow on NVC here.

NVC FOR PARENTING You can possibly also see how with small children, this could be a bit heavy, and you will need to be sensitive to that, and never, ever use the revealing of your feelings as a tool for manipulation.

NVC holds an awful lot of insight that I think is especially helpful for parents (well, like, on top of The Whole Thing):

Connection is the key to peace

It is the reason, the how, the why, the everything. Rosenberg is adamant that human connection is the way to unlock violent or angry situations. As parents our number one goal for each day should be connecting with our children. NVC shows us how to keep those doors of connection open no matter what.

The world needs more Empathy

“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. We often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.”
NVC is a process that gets us into an empathetic place- it has been successfully used to nurture understanding in situations from warring street gangs to international conflict. When we parent with understanding and empathy we are likely to see our children showing understanding and empathy- things the world needs in order to prevent warring gangs and international conflict. The pathway to world peace begins in every home. (What’s good enough for the Gangs of New York is good enough for my Tribe in a Yurt.)

Our needs as parents are real

I love that NVC is about being real. Our feelings are valid and not to be hidden, and yet, yet, it asks us to take a breath and recognise what lies beneath our feelings and how we can actually get what we need. Sometimes I get the impression that attachment parenting relishes martyrdom…. The fact is, if the intense sacrifice of parenting a baby stretches into the toddler and older child years we are denying the importance of our own needs.

The world needs more Self Empathy

And therefore Rosenberg doesn’t just talk of giving empathy to others, but of receiving empathy. We can not keep being empathetic to our children if we aren’t getting dosed up ourselves. We need to find support people to top us up, but mostly we need to be empathetic to ourselves. Being kind to ourselves is one of the most important foundations for empathetic parenting. Funnily enough, I think it is the thing we struggle most with. We experience guilt piled upon guilt and give ourselves a break NEVER. Dive into self empathy, your children will love you for it!

Non violent communication for parents

Being a judgey judger doesn’t help us connect

Importantly, it asks us to not judge our children when they do things we find difficult. We asked constantly to put judgements on our kids- are they good, bad, naughty? And it is hard sometimes to take our judgemental specs off.

We have actually been working with an NVC trained mediator recently and she inspired me with the idea that there is very little “good” or “bad” in day to day situations…. What there IS are people with basic needs trying to get them met in a way that we don’t really like! Never is this more apparent with children. Most of the time children are just expressing a need – for connection or belonging or security- with a strategy that really grates! “MUM I DO NOT WANT YOUR DISGUSTING PASTA FOR TEA!!”

Non Violent Communication in Parenting

What a change of perspective when we can see that our children are just working out the best ways of getting their needs met- and that we are able to have a sincere, kind discussion with them about this.

Non Violent communication in parenting

We need to find alternatives to R ewards and punishments

If there is anyone I going to listen to about how to avoid big, global conflict it is a dude who has dedicated his life to resolving it. Rosenberg says “Punishment is the root of all violence on the planet”and he isn’t referring just to institutional punishment but punitive measures taken in the home- smacking and shaming and bribing. He advocates more connection based, more empathetic ways of communicating with our children- only when children experience empathy will they be able to give it. When children act out of fear of punishment, or in order to receive a reward, they are not acting from the heart, which lessens the good will and peace in the world.

Here is Rosenberg with his dad hat on, using NVC in one of those really tricky situations (that I know too well) when your child hits another:
In such situations, I recommend first empathizing with the child who is behaving violently. For example, if I saw a child hit someone after being called a name, I might empathize, “I’m sensing that you’re feeling angry because you’d like to be treated with more respect.” If I guessed correctly, and the child acknowledges this to be true, I would then continue by expressing my own feelings, needs, and requests in the situation without insinuating blame: “I’m feeling sad because I want us to find ways to get respect that don’t turn people into enemies. I’d like you to tell me if you’d be willing to explore with me some other ways to get the respect you’re wanting.

Take a deep breath

And then, to finish, I think NVC holds one very practical tip that I reckon could be the big change from a volatile parent-child relationship to a peaceful one, and that is: taking a big deep, reflective breath before we react or reply.

Parenting can trigger an emotional response in us- sometimes my child’s behaviour unleashes a small, angry dragon in my belly. If I react from that dragon place out come the bribes and warnings and manipulation. But if I take a moment to understand my feelings, to empathise, to listen, then my fiery breath is much less fierce, and stinky.

NVC conversations are slow and quiet, they involve silent space, reflection and observation. Have a look at this Youtube video to get a sense of how softly, softly these parenting chats can go.

Non violent communication for parents

So there we have it, boom shack, a little overview of how NVC can work in the home. NVC has bought about so much peace worldwide- I believe if it is implemented between adults and children the impact will be multiplied a google times.

Parenting for Social Justice series

You know, I have an undergrad and post grad degree in social policy, and spent the majority of my career in policy and campaigns- determined that this was the way to a fair world.

Then I had children. I began to see that social justice begins in the home; that peaceful adult- child interaction has just as much a role as the UN, the NGOs, all the Nobel Peace Prize nominees. I will raise warring tyrants or peacemakers (or somewhere in between!) depending on how I treat my children.

This series has been on my mind for a year- I want to take a look at how common themes and concepts within the global social justice movement apply to childhood.

I’d love to explore this with you, if you have any ideas we can look at, it’d be awesome to hear from you.

A just and beautiful world is nurtured every time a child is loved and respected….