A Couple Moments with Danielle Chassin
Danielle of @hippieindisguise has been a supporter and cheerleader of fairechild since I launched in early 2018. We quickly connected over a shared interest in sustainability and recognizing the power of outdoor play for children. Danielle has kindly taken the time to answer a few questions we had for her how she parents and how she is bringing intention to her life. I'm so happy to be able to share these wise words with you. I admire Danielle for her thoughtfulness and I think you will as well!
You can read more from Danielle at her blog, Hippie in Disguise.
Above Image of Danielle and her family by Shabana Buwalda
What 3 words best describe your parenting philosophy?
It’s hard to pick just three…I have five, but when you take them as a set it’s clear how they are linked and mutually supportive: compassionate, slow, intentional, creative, and unconventional. Actually, you can probably distill them all down to ‘compassionate,’ because I think the others all act to promote compassion.
Children are born with a deep embodied compassion for others, they are full of love and without negative judgment. It’s my belief that as they age and mature their natural sense of kindness and compassion is challenged and weakened, and by adulthood our hearts and minds are fundamentally not the same. It’s my hope that adults will do a better job of protecting and maintaining the compassionate hearts of children, so that there will emerge a more peaceful generation of people.
I think that a society run by a generation of compassionate adults would be a true revolution to consciousness that would extend beyond humans and would positively impact how humans interact with landscapes, trees, plants, waterways, soil, air and animals. I think that to maintain compassion, as parents we have to be very intentional, deeply reflective and aligned in our values, we need to be engaged and connected with our children, and we need to give them the space to live life slowly. I also think that protecting and nurturing compassion is a somewhat radical way to parent and it requires a lot of creativity of parents, a certain comfort with being unconventional, and having the confidence to define for ourselves how we will parent. My hope is to raise deeply kind, radically compassionate humans.
How have you made changes in your life to ‘live slow’ and what benefits have you seen?
For me, 'slow' means engaged in the moment, it means being present and connected to what I’m doing, with a singular focus, as much as possible. It doesn’t mean I do things at a significantly slower pace, or even slower at all, however, it feels slower because I’m present and connected to what I’m doing, rather than constantly being distracted by another task, or hustling quickly from one thing to the next. I think of slow living as single-tasking as opposed to multi-tasking. I have found that I’m actually more productive when I single-task, and afterward I’m calmer and less fatigued. It’s win-win for me.
In terms of bringing a slow living perspective to parenting it’s been a very positive experience. I take my single-task, single focus approach and apply it to how I interact with the children. I’m not perfect, of course, but I try to do one thing at a time and give my children my full attention, rather than splitting it between helping them with homework and folding laundry, or listening to a child tell me about their day, while I check my emails. I try my absolute best not to share my focus with anything, when it’s my children asking for it. I’m not sure of all the benefits this has, but it does seem like we have a strong bond, they are less impatient and frustrated, and less needy for my attention, because they get it when they ask for it.
We also take our slow living approach and apply it to our daily and weekly schedules, we leave a lot of time for open-ended free time, with not too many lessons and play dates in the calendar. This keeps us from having to rush too much in our days, and lets us stop and do serendipitous things, like smell the flowers or collect pinecones for a project without worrying about being late for karate lessons. I think the greatest benefit of slow living for the children is that they have developed long attention spans, patience, and strong sense of adventure and curiosity.
How do you try to be a more conscious and thoughtful consumer?
Well, to be honest, I start from the perspective of not consuming. I keep at the front of my mind the way that most people in the world live, that is, live with very little. I know that I’m very fortunate to have been born into my family in Canada, I know that what I consider a “need” is most often a “want”. I also know that the production of new things always has a negative environmental impact that is usually borne by the most marginalized people, these same people that already have so little. So, I try very hard to find ways not to buy new items, because ultimately the most conscious, ethical way to consume is to not consume new products.
That being said, I acknowledge that this is an ideal and not practical for many families. It takes quite the investment of time and transportation (and associated emissions) to find everything you need second hand, it’s something I definitely do not have the time to do. So, when I need to buy new things I look for products that have the lightest environmental impact and the most positive social impact, that means buying locally made items, that are made from sustainable, recyclable or compostable materials and that have fair, transparent and empowering labour practices. It’s really exciting to see that Canada is leading the way on this front with fairechild and Petits Vilains, for example, among other emerging brands.
In terms of modelling conscious consumption to my children, I first try not to involve them too much in shopping. I don’t want them to think of shopping as a past-time or entertaining activity. But, the reality is that they often have to be involved in shopping, so I explain to them why we go the extra distance to shop second hand or at local shops, or why I say no to new things even when we can afford them. They have learned that buying things is the farthest thing from a mindless activity, they see me hum and haw over everything, and they’ve internalized that shopping is a lot more than handing over money at a cash register.
Finally, I’ve tried my best to in-still an understanding that consumption doesn’t end with buying and bringing home an item. As a family, we are now responsible for that thing we bought, including what it’s life will look like once we don’t need it -- because putting it in the garbage or recycling it is that last thing we want to do. The reality is that I often tell the children they cannot get something based on the fact that I can’t think of an ethical way to get rid of it. It’s an extended consumer responsibility mentality that I try to impart. Check in with my in 10 years and I’ll let you know if any of this stuck with them.