I grew up in a very warm climate. We’re talking summer time temperatures reaching 115 F in late July and staying through August, sometimes even September. Despite this, my family grew vegetable gardens. We started them in February, shortly after President’s Day. We usually bought starts. And, we worked in the back yard loosening the soil, adding in mulch and fertilizer, making irrigation ditches, and planting the plants. That was the fun part. It was also fun to harvest the veggies when the time came. The hard part was weeding the thing.
I don’t mind weeding, if it feels like I can make progress on the project. But, there are some weeds, like Bermuda grass, that I never feel like I get ahead of. The problem with Bermuda grass is that it has runners and roots, not just roots. So, to actually rid the garden of this most terrible weed, I have to dig the whole plant out. All of it, from the entire yard, not just the one patch I was working on that morning.
I think the universe has a major sense of irony. We are sharing a garden this year with our neighbor. We covered half the garden area with thick black plastic – to bake the weeds and warm the soil. That side of the garden is doing great with minimal weed issues. However, half the garden is open rows with stacks of hay between to walk on. The stacks of hay are doing great at keeping the weeds down. But those open rows are full of Bermuda grass.
Weeding is a painstakingly slow process. Our tender seedlings don’t want to be disturbed and won’t take much disruption to their growth. However, the weeds need to come out – they are taking up precious nutrients, space, and water. We spent the morning there, and I managed to weed half a row of beets. Three hours of work later, I had a huge harvest of grass, runners, and roots and half a row of rather small and stressed baby beet plants.
I know the beets will be better off for the weeding. I also know that the removal of all those roots, and runners disturbed the beets. I had to repack the soil around each beet plant as I found it. Then after all the disruption to the soil, the beets also needed to be watered back in. These little plants were extremely sensitive to the sun and moisture levels after all the weeds were removed.
As I sat there, crawling along, painstakingly removing the weeds, with their roots, runners and anything that looked like a weed, I thought a lot about life as a parent. (Gardening always makes me philosophical). I noticed that life, as a parent, is analogous to weeding. It seems as a parent, I’m growing children and some veggies.
Let me explain:
As parents, we plant seeds in our children that we hope will grow into great fruit. We plant ideas about self-worth, right and wrong, talents, God, the importance of things. . . and the list goes on. We want these ideas to grow with in our children, until, as adults, the fruit of these seeds is shown. We hope our children grow up being moral, God-fearing, confident, capable, employed, happy people. Those traits, and others, are the harvest we are looking for.
The first part of parenting is physically demanding, but rather easy. It’s comparable to preparing the soil and planting the starts and seeds. It’s hard to pull all-nighters when the baby is crying because of colic, toothache, or illness. It’s hard to meet the needs of such a helpless human. It’s hard in a very physical way. I don’t want to diminish the difficulty of those first few years.
After the baby is about 2 (sometimes 3), then the weeding begins. The children’s behaviors, habits, reactions, etc., are monitored by the parents during this time. There’s a lot of teaching, correcting, and teaching that happens. Again, this is hard work. Consistently trying to show, tell, and retell how the family expects the children to behave. This is difficult in a more of a mental way. It takes constant consistency and a lot of patience. Often this “weeding” is slow going – with lessons needing to be taught and retaught several times over. Just as with the Bermuda grass, leaving runners of bad habits, roots of excuses, and seeds of permissiveness will cause the good seeds, parents have planted, to be choked out.
Parenting takes a lot of patience, kindness, love, and gentleness. Just like my little beets, parents cannot allow the weeds to take over – nor can they pull the weeds very aggressively. Correcting children needs to be done gently, but consistently. And afterwards, the children need to be “watered back in” with love and affection. The consistent, gentle correction will help the good seeds have a place to grow up in. Showing love and kindness feeds the good seeds and will enable our children to become the amazing people they are.