Oh, the nappies! Three children, three hideous amounts of nappies packed into various landfills in England and Germany and South Africa. I try to squash the thought down, just as I squash down the lid of an over-flowing nappy bin. One day my kids are going to accuse me of despoiling the environment and I’m going to have to join an environmental group and pick up litter every day for seven consecutive years to compensate for the planetary karma I have incurred.
Convenience is such a weak excuse for using disposables. And we use them for so much longer than our mothers used cloth nappies because they hold everything so much better. One woman of my mother’s age had three sons in five years and each was potty-trained by the time he was eighteen months old because she needed the terry-cloth nappies for the next baby. Received wisdom now says babies should be potty-trained between two and three years old, which means we give the nappy-makers another eighteen months or more of our consumer Euros. And that’s not to mention the four and five-year-olds who are still in night-time nappies. It seems that we become addicted to the disposables just because they are too damn convenient, right along with Big Macs and frozen pizzas. Being convenient doesn’t make them good for us.
I really wish I’d had the resolve and the energy to take on reusable nappies. I so admire people who do. It takes a commitment that I have had not had. And if you are a terry-cloth nappy user, you will also tend to potty-train your babies earlier, which is also an astonishing commitment.
So my eighteen-month-old fella, who is a really quick learner, is showing “signs” as the books and his grandmothers say. He is intensely aware of what’s going on in his nappy, and always tells us afterwards that he’s got a “bum-bum”. If I said that potty-training is entirely my very worst part of child-raising, even worse than not sleeping for a year, I would not be exaggerating. I just loathe it, and frankly, you can train and train all you like, but they are not potty-trained until a certain synapse connects with another synapse in the brain and goes click. Up till then, it is just good timing and good luck.
So the question is, do I have the commitment, energy and resolve to try to potty-train a baby who is showing the signs, but who could remain in the training phase for another eighteen months? Hmmm. Not sure. I would dearly like to reduce our environmental footprint just a little, but I just don’t know if I have the stamina.
So for now, while I percolate the topic, we are trying to be more environmentally sound in other ways. For instance, we walk a lot. Our town is compact enough that we can get almost everywhere by foot: school, kindergarten, ballet, music, friends, play-grounds, the river, the pool. Lily and Daisy are big enough now to ride their bikes and Ollie and I and the stroller trot along behind. The only things I need the car for on a weekly basis are the supermarket and swimming-lessons, which are in another town.
So, this week, Ollie and I tried going to the supermarket by foot. The round-trip only took an hour! Ollie slept throughout, I enjoyed a great walk, and I when I got there I only bought exactly what we needed (no treats, no extras) because I couldn’t carry more. So we had exercise, saved money, breathed fresh air, and released no carbons. We still put five nappies in a landfill, but we did something good to compensate for it. And I’m still thinking about the potty-training.