My kids are very much like my garden. Sometimes they produce the fruit I expect, and sometimes they produce weeds. Other times they wilt and wither until I pour a little love on them. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because the sun has been shining, and it seems like winter is behind us. But I know that if I start tilling the soil and prepping my garden for lovely new plants at the end of winter, my work will be for naught. The cold temperatures and frost will return and kill my plants if I put them in the ground too early. I’ve learned this from experience. Any work I put into planting my garden before Mother’s Day is surely wasted.
But, no matter the season, I can get out there and work. If it’s rained a lot, weeds are super easy to pull. And it makes very little difference when I remove tree branches that have blown down during winter wind storms, or remove other unwanted debris that has settled there. And all those little tasks make the big task of planting much easier. And sometimes no work is required from me, and I still get to enjoy the beauty in my garden … like the time a mother rabbit had her bunnies under my rosemary bush … or the time a squirrel planted dahlia bulbs next to the lavender. What a surprise!
The same is true with my children. Sometimes I am ready to do great works that will help them to grow and shine … but if I start my work a season too early, my work will also be done in vain. And sometimes my kids surprise me like that squirrel did, because they do amazing things without any prompting from me.
But just like my garden, I can work on different elements of parenting depending on the season of life we’re in … sometimes that means I teach and guide, and other times it means that I hold my tongue and listen. I remember the time my teen shared with me about an article she’d read in a magazine about heroin addiction. Ugh! This was not a fun topic, or something I wanted to talk about. In fact, I kind of wanted to run away with my hands clapped over my ears. But that afternoon I listened to my daughter tell me all about statistics of this drug and the kids her age who tried it were often addicted after trying it one time. And guess what? That listening showed her that she can talk to me about uncomfortable topics like drug addiction.
Parenting—and gardening—require great timing. Just like there is a time to till the soil, there is also a time to nurture little seedlings with support and tender care until they grow a little taller and more robust and become strong enough stand on their own. When my kids were very young, it seemed like they were dependent on me for everything … and it’s true, they were! But as they grew physically and became more capable with their gross motor skills, they also grew emotionally and were able to work out issues with each other and with other kids. They became stronger because of the support and love they received from their dad and me, and also because they’d been allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
My kids are teenagers now, and it sometimes seems like they became teens overnight. But the reality is that my children grew slowly and beautifully after many days—some sunny and some stormy. Their roots pushed deep into the proverbial ground and their bases of faith, and ever-increasing independence, and life skills all started out like tiny seeds. Some lessons “took” right away; others blew away completely. And just like in my garden, there are always weeds to pull—reminders to get along with each other or to complete their work before they play. But the weeds are becoming fewer and the fruit they are producing is becoming more abundant.
And so as we go through this next season of parenting and navigate through teen driving and algebra, and goals for traveling and work, we will expect to weather storms as they come. But we’ll also remember to look for beauty and appreciate all the unexpected gifts that show up along the way.
A great analogy.