“Trash the Lectures”

Save the Bay Rhode Island has posted their calendar of Beach Cleanups for 2011: Click here to view calendar

It reminded me of the following entry I published a year ago in another blog. Although a year old, it still remains timely and relevant (with the exception of the previously referenced “boyfriend” who is now my wonderful fiancee.) ;)

From June 10, 2010:

Like many parents, I find it very easy to lecture my son Bryce on “do this” and “don’t do that.” So far, he is ridiculously obedient. But when that wears off, as he gets older and starts copping an attitude, what remnants of my verbal diatribes shall remain in his video game-infested, girl-obsessed adolescent mind?

My solution: Drop the lectures and make it relevant.

One of the most refreshing realizations I have come to as a parent is that Bryce stands to learn much more from me by watching what I do, and by taking part in experiences with me, than he does from hearing me “nag.”

Case in point: I am constantly reminding Bryce to not litter, to throw trash where it belongs, and recycle, recycle, recycle! But no speech could have compared to a recent Saturday we spent together.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and Bryce, Jack (my boyfriend’s son, 9 years old) , and I smeared on the sun block, packed up our coolers with cold drinks, and headed to Narragansett for a beach day.

But instead of bringing along shovels and pails, we were armed with latex gloves and giant GLAD trash bags. Instead of being warned by officials of strong undertow, we were cautioned to watch out for drug needles. There would be no sand castles on this beach day. No riding waves or chasing seagulls either.

For two hours, the three of us volunteered in a “Beach Clean Up” with Save the Bay Rhode Island.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the boys, aside from complaints about the hot sun beating down on us, or endless questioning of how much longer until they could have the snacks and drinks out of the car? But that never happened. On the contrary, they excitedly raced along the beach scanning for debris, challenging each other to see who could find the biggest piece of scrap or the most unusual odds and ends.

Cigarette butts, soda cans, Solo cups, beer bottles, used condoms, cigarette butts, fishing lines, potato chip bags, used diapers, scrap metal, hypodermic needles, Styrofoam cups, cigarette butts, plastic soda can rings, tampon applicators, plastic cleaning containers, milk jugs, cigarette butts… and did I mention cigarette butts? These are just some of the things they found. These are just some of the things people will drop haphazardly on the sand, off their boat, off a pier… or even better, just some of the things that freely flow out of the sewer system and into the sea.

Lectures Go in the Bag


For obvious reasons, the boys were not allowed to go near the hypodermic needle. Or the used condom or tampon applicator for that matter. But what if another child, unknowingly digging sandcastles one summer day, wasn’t so lucky?

At the end of the beach cleanup, our trash was weighed and recorded by Save the Bay. The youngest volunteers in the group, Jack and Bryce proudly talked to the other adult volunteers about what they had found. Hmmm, I thought to myself. Suddenly they were the ones lecturing!

On the way home, we stopped to enjoy a most refreshing Rhode Island summer tradition: Del’s Frozen Lemonade. They finished the frosty drinks in record time and made a point of ensuring their empty paper cups were tucked safely into the appropriate receptacle.

It was difficult to explain to the boys just how significant their volunteer efforts were at the beach that day. So, that evening, Jon and I took them to the movie theater to see the recently released Disney movie, “Oceans.” With its phenomenal undersea footage, combined with a striking environmental message, it was an impactful closing to their day.

Much more impactful than yelling at them, “Plastics go in the blue recycle containers, not green. Blue!”

From now on, whenever possible, no matter what the issue…

If I want them to remember, I trash the lectures.




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2 Responses to “Trash the Lectures”

  1. Jane Couto says:

    What a great way to teach the importance of keeping our beaches beautiful. I’m sure it made a huge impact on them to actually SEE the difference they were making. And to top it all off with a trip to Del’s… well, I’m sure it was a memorable day! :)

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