Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why we prefer wooden toys (and other personal family choices)

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Someone on my last post made a comment, asking me whether wooden toys are better than plastic and how would I actually know?

For starters, I’m sorry if anyone interpreted my post as declaring any one thing better than another for everyone. It’s a family decision for us to prefer wooden and natural material toys, especially open-ended play toys (those toys that can be used for more than one game). I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that these things are not priorities for other families- they have things that are important to them, and those priorities may not be the same as my family’s priorities.

However.

We have our own reasons for preferring certain things (like wooden toys!) and I’d like to say why.

In our case, we prefer wooden toys for several reasons- the most practical reason is that my son is three years old and is slightly careless. He isn’t deliberately hard on his toys (except the big plastic ones, but that’s a different story), but he does tend to drop them, occasionally throw them, and more often than not bury them in something else which then gets stepped on.

Plastic doesn’t really hold up to that sort of abuse. It’s much cheaper, true, but I prefer the sturdy feel of wood.

We also have a personal belief of our family that wooden toys are more beautiful- it’s a personal preference, but an important one to us. Wooden toys have an elegance to appearance and feel to us that we really enjoy- adults and children alike.

We also subscribe to the belief that our son should respect his toys- which includes taking care of them. For a plastic toy, that would mean washing (which is fine!) but wooden toys give him a chance to learn something that we think is really special. All his wooden toys are polished once a week with a beeswax polish (which I take pleasure in making myself, adding an additional layer of pleasure) and it teaches him patience and respect for his toys, and how to keep them in good condition.

Now, all of these things are family beliefs of OUR family. We have no problems in the least with other families who choose other options, but these are our family choices.

In which I decide reality is the better option

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So, I have activist friends. I’m so proud of them for supporting their beliefs with passion and vigor!

The catch that I’ve found? My activist friends (whose causes I completely support, mind you!) all support….

*Freedom in Birth Choices

*Home Birth

*Birth Education

*Anti-GMO foods

*Celiac awareness

*Invisible Illness Awareness

*Occupy Spokane/Wall St/Life

*Gay Rights

*Pagan rights

*Freedom of religions

*Fair Trade

*Organic

*Locally Grown Foods

*Local Merchants

*Urban Homesteading

*Victory/Peace Gardening

*Putting up/Putting by

*Grow your own food

*Homeschool

*Unschool

And I don’t think that’s even a complete list. Those are just what I can think of off the top of my head. All of those things, I celebrate and I’m glad to support. However, I have learned over the years that I am not one of those endlessly energetic people who can dedicate so much of themselves that everything becomes a battle for the rights of stuff.

As I read about it, though, and as I study the causes and the politics and everything else, I realize that I feel bad if I can’t do it all. And that’s when I realized that I could really, really burn myself out to a hollow, ashen husk trying to do everything all at once. I read about this woman who grows all her own food, and that woman who homeschools nine children while baking from scratch, and this guy over there who was brained during a not-riot on Wall Street, and I think “I should be able to grow my own food and bake and homeschool and protest and can and still find time to be beautiful and herbal and grow my own medicines and…” then I realize that these are literally hundreds of different people. I do not have a single person, be it blogger or personal friend, who does EVERYTHING on this list.

And then I realize that I don’t have to. I don’t have to feel guilty. What I need to do is find something that I can reasonably commit to, and do so. It isn’t practical for my family to grow their own food and can it all every fall and never need to buy another store-bought apple. It isn’t realistic to expect that I can have a spotless house with fresh, homemade food on the table every single meal that I make in between waving signs downtown.

I mean, we don’t even -have- a table.

These people I see who seem to do everything, they must have worked up to it. They didn’t just decide one day “You know what? I’m going to have a perfect house and a perfect meal and never hit my kids and take ballet and music lessons and march with the protest.” They started out staring around their house, just like I am, wondering how on Earth a child with so few toys can still have them scattered from here to the back door. They slowly transitioned from plastic toys to wooden- or they planned ahead before they had kids and they worked on it then. They started with a tomato plant and a garden bed full of lettuce and carrots and other easy to grow plants, and then moved on from there.

They started with what reality gave them, and moved practically from one step to the next.

So then, shall I. Practically speaking, we cannot afford to dive into organic, local produce and meats exclusively. I can’t afford six bucks a dozen for eggs. But I can, practically speaking, start using my breadmaker to make whole-grain dough that I can bake up for my family, and that’s a step in the right direction for their health. I can buy hormone free milk, even though it costs a dollar more- even if it’s just for the kids and the grownups get to suffer through the cheap milk.

I can make my son’s birthday cake with whole-wheat flour, even if I’m not willing to cut out the white sugar yet. I can make whole wheat flour oatmeal raisin cookies as treats for his party instead of sugar cookies covered in bright frosting. I can put out a veggie tray for tiny toddler hands (and olders!) to devour while they play, and splurge on organic tomatoes from the produce section for his tacos. I can buy organic apples, since they’re highest in pesticides- even if I don’t buy organic everything else.

I can support a cause, but I can’t support every cause. I can’t donate to everything that pulls on my heart, so instead I can dedicate myself to something that really matters to -me-, personally, because I live it. I can encourage herbalism and provide first aid and care for protesters who have no health insurance. I can talk openly about breastfeeding and birth and choices. These are things that matter to me- providing people with the means to make a choice- a true, informed choice, so nobody ever feels trapped.

I can’t be everything, but I’ve decided that realistically, I can certainly be something, and I can be that something quite well.