Credit: Cindy Jeftovic

I was a worrier as a child. At night, I would lie in my bunk bed with the pink curtains and obsess over the state of the world. War was a big concern of mine then – nuclear war in particular. It was the seventies and the Cold War was all over the news. Somewhere, I had heard about “the button,” and I spent countless hours obsessing about it. My mom would come in to check on me and find me lying there, eyes wide open with fear of the impending apocalypse. “Will there be a nuclear war?” I would ask. “No, of course not,” she’d say, reassuringly. “How do you know?” “Well, I don’t know for sure, but I’m quite certain there won’t be.” “Yeah, but what if that Russian guy with his finger on the button gets so mad that he just decides to blow up the world? Or what if he slips? What if he’s reaching for a Kleenex and he accidentally…” “Look,” my mom would interrupt me, her frustration evident, “an eight-year-old girl should not be worrying about nuclear war. Stop thinking about it and go to sleep.” “Okay,” I’d mumble, as she kissed my cheek and prepared to exit. “Mom?” I would call, just as she reached the door. “Will I get a brain tumour?” I’m sure I was an enormous pain, but I couldn’t help it. There were just so many things to worry about! Obviously, that hasn’t changed. There are still wars and brain tumours. And now we can add global warming to the boogeyman list. Thanks to media saturation levels, even Amish children know that the planet is in a precarious state. I understand that this hard-hitting coverage has a purpose, but in its efforts to shock adults into action, it’s scaring the crap out of our kids! Unfortunately, my children have inherited my worrying tendencies. Ethan, my nine-year-old son, in particular, has an innate ability to latch on to a subject and not let it go. We were driving in the car one day when it started to rain. As the drops splattered on the windshield, he asked, “Could that be acid rain?” “What?” Tegan, my seven-year-old daughter shrieked. “Rain that is acid?” “No, it’s not,” I assured them. “We could test it,” Ethan suggested. “We saw a video at school. You just have to put a glass of cabbage juice outside. If it turns red, it’s acid rain.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cabbage juice readily available, so was unable to allay their fears. I had to explain that acid rain was more of an eastern problem caused by large polluting factories. But of course, the subject, and various other environmental concerns (hurricanes, rising ocean levels, the fate of the polar bear) have been raised again and again – often when Ethan and Tegan are in bed attempting to fall asleep. But believe it or not, we are lucky when our children come to us with their fears about global warming. When I was a kid, our parents could only say: “I’m fairly certain there won’t be a nuclear war,” or “You probably won’t get a brain tumour.” Oh, how reassuring! Today we can empower our kids, tell them that the planet’s future is in our hands. And that, in itself, is comforting. Of course, this comfort won’t go far if you eat off paper plates and drive your kids to school in a Hummer. You’ve got to follow it up with some lifestyle changes. Thanks to my kids’ increased awareness about the environment, we are greener than ever. (The fact that we live in a neighbourhood where SUV drivers are occasionally stoned to death and plastic grocery bags are reviled like kiddie porn, could also have something to do with it.) I fed Ethan a conventional nectarine one day, and he sniffed: “Is it at least local?” His environmental activism has extended outside the home too. At school, he’s on a “spirit team,” which champions litterless lunches, and is working to get compost bins in the playground. Being proactive has helped allay his concerns, which has had a trickle-down effect on his younger sister. They both know that if we all do our part, we can save the planet. And they’re not worrying as much. In fact, it’s been months since either of them has asked me, “Will our house be underwater when the ice caps melt – or just Richmond?”