By CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER • firstname.lastname@example.org
Many people -- including (most important of all) my wife -- consider it a sign of progress that I've hand-washed my new daughter's poopy diapers over the past seven months.
Some of the other parental "advancements" in our house:
• Wooden toys, just like the ones my parents played with when they were kids, back in the dark ages.
• Natural brands of baby-bath soap, laundry detergent and other things that are supposed to get sudsy but don't.
• Disposable diapers -- only for when we absolutely must use them, of course -- that look like they're made of recycled grocery-shopping bags.
• A crib, changing table and rocking chair all made from sustainable-forest wood and toxin-free paints. It looks like the stuff at Ikea but has a much ickier price tag.
That's right, my daughter, Lila, wasn't the only newcomer to our house seven months ago. The green movement finally came home, too.
My wife and I had always been good recyclers/forest-savers/Hummer-dissers. We not only saw "An Inconvenient Truth" in theaters, we bought the DVD (to support the cause; we didn't actually watch it again).
Al Gore's movie was just the first ripple in a perfect storm of media hype that hit my wife around the time she got pregnant, sending her over the green edge.
Remember all those news stories about toys from China coated in lead paint, which became last year's version of SARS or shark attacks? My wife read all of them. She also read "The Complete Organic Pregnancy" and "Raising Baby Green," books that became top sellers last year.
Lest you think she's high-brow, I'm quite sure the Great Earth-Mother-to-Be also took many of her cues from People magazine and Us Weekly reports on how Brad and Angelina and other celebs (except for Britney) are raising their kids.
Like all wise men do when their wives' bellies are growing faster than the tide pools around the South Pole, I played along. Sure, honey, I'll pay twice as much for a crib to save the forests of some country we'll never visit. Sure, honey, let's get that boring wood toy for $20 instead of the $4 Made-in-China gadget that makes even my eyes dazzle.
The cloth diapers are what really got me, though. "What hath God wrought?" I'd ask myself every time I was down in our frigid basement in the middle of the night rinsing out one of Lila's masterful works of art in the laundry tub.
They've actually made some nifty advancements in cloth-diaper making. We use a brand called Fuzzi Bunz, which: a) is fun to say, and b) features snaps and removable liners. But until they invent built-in vacuums that suck away all your child's debris, cloth diapers still stink no matter what.
Like so many other facets of new parenthood, though, the frustration of green parenting washes away anytime my daughter flashes me one of those life-changing smiles. Ultimately, I'm not doing it for my wife, I'm doing it for Lila.
It's not that I'm afraid my daughter will have to wear a spacesuit to walk the earth by the time she's my age. I bet the Gap will make great spacesuits. It's the fear that she'll look at me like I'm an idiot if I don't go green -- sort of how people my age view our parents' cigarette habits, when they supposedly didn't know any better.
Us to our parents: Come on, you guys really didn't think that spewing all those carcinogens around your kids -- even during pregnancy -- was a bad thing?
Lila's generation to us: Come on, you didn't think those diapers that take 150 years to decompose or those unregulated sweatshop toys were bad?
In more immediate terms, we've also found green parenting has other advantages:
• Cloth diapers require far fewer trips to the store and money for disposable diapers.
• Now that our girl's starting to eat real food -- real real food, from a processor, not a jar -- we're also buying more fresh produce for ourselves.
• And like everything else in child-rearing that starts out woefully difficult, green parenting gets easier and becomes routine. I don't give much more thought to rinsing a diaper these days than I do to rinsing a plate.
Here's solid proof of what I'm talking about (or semi-solid; Lila's still nursing): There were a couple of weeks around my daughter's fourth or fifth month when the Fuzzi Bunz sizes didn't quite fit her right, so we used disposable diapers in the interim.
Would you believe I actually kind of missed all that stink work?