KRISTINA BEERS: The buck stops here

I realize I throw away a lot of pencils. Short ones, dull ones, plastic ones, broken ones, you name the brand, I’ll bet you it has seen time in my house. 

Why do I throw pencils away? Because I have boys, therefore I find oodles of random odds and ends around the house with one exception of consistency: Pencils. (And BBs, but we won’t discuss those little spheres of annoyance today.) 

For whatever reason, my boys are attracted to pencils of all sorts and sizes. Pencils get carried around behind the ear or in a pocket; stored in a pencil bag, cup on the table, pockets of backpacks and in the cupboard where we keep school supplies. If we have a zombie apocalypse, come to my house for pencils.

I throw them away because they are so abundant it’s irritating. I never buy the plastic click pencils, yet there was one in my washing machine the other day. I don’t recall buying a particular brand, but there it is on the floor of the living room. 

I have tried to return the random lot to the boys, but the answer is always the same: “It’s not mine.” So to the burn trash it goes because I’m tired of finding them everywhere. Which leads me to yesterday. 

Once again traveling to the garbage bin with a pencil in hand, I said to myself, “I wish we weren’t such a throwaway culture.” Even though that wish was fervent, I still tossed that pencil in the trash. Oh, the irony!

I recalled times of visiting with my uncle and discussing my grandmother,who died before I was born, and how she would write on every single scrap of paper so as not to waste paper. How she would listen to the radio on so low she had to lay her head right next to the speaker to not waste electricity. 

She would be grandly disappointed in her offspring tossing pencils in the trash, I’m certain. But how did we get here in two short generations? We treasure some old items, but toss phones, pencils, reams of junk mail, tons of electronics, clothes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We truly are a throwaway culture because we have so much. I can go to any store and get a myriad of things to fill my house, both necessary and unnecessary.

I toy with the idea of buying a box of pencils and telling the boys to use wisely, keep track of them, blah, blah, blah. I know it won’t work because at least half of their stash comes from friends and teachers. It also won’t work because we have so many writing implements in this house I could re-write “War and Peace” and still have a bucket left over. 

But the real reason it won’t work is because they see me tossing clutter. They watch what I do and what I don’t do. And I don’t save a pencil, I don’t keep the radio down and I leave the water running too often. They see me being wasteful.

The thing with complaining about things around me — my kids’ attitudes, my community, my America — is that I am the leader of whatever is going on: My kids watch me and imitate the example I’ve given to them. I can’t litter and then expect to have a lovely drive. If I wish we weren’t a throwaway culture, I better stop tossing pencils. It all begins somewhere. 

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month on the Pioneer’s Family and Friends page.