With the combination of a big yard and springtime weather, we have started spending lots of time outside. As the days get longer and warmer, the more time we spend outside the happier Benji is. And the happier I am too. One day, as I worked in the flower beds around our house, pulling weeds, I reflected on how these metaphors transfer to motherhood and the work of cultivating growth in a child.
A lot of times while we are outside, I work in the garden or flower beds around the house pulling weeds. As I work, Benji walks around the yard and plays in his sandbox. But other times, he tries to help me with my work. To the trained eye, a weed is recognizable as different from a flower. But to the baby, a green plant is a green plant is a green plant. He kept trying to help me except instead of weeds, Benji reached for the tulips that had not yet bloomed.
He reached for a flower. I told him no. He pulled another flower, and again, I told him no.
We went back and forth like this multiple times. Me growing progressively more frustrated by his persistence in pulling the flowers, and Benji grew frustrated at his inability to help. However, then I realized he doesn’t know. He can’t recognize and differentiate weed from flower. And it is not only my job to reprimand him so that he doesn’t pull the flowers apart, but I also must teach him to recognize the weeds as what doesn’t belong.
Parenting as a whole is not much different than the business of pulling weeds and planting seeds. Gardening is hard work. Parenting is hard work.
Cultivating life is not for the faint of heart.
I have a vision of what the flower bed is becoming, and I work to cultivated it toward that vision. I pull weeds so they don’t choke out the plants I want to keep. And I plant more flowers, bushes, and trees so that the garden becomes all I envision it to be.
Of course, I take a much more determinative role in deciding what my garden will be like than I do in choosing who my child will be in his particularities. However, for his character, the respectable person I want him to be at his core, for that, I can have a clear vision and work toward that end.
At this age, while Benji is just entering the toddler stage, pulling weeds sounds a lot like, “no”. Helping him to see the world as black and white, right from wrong. And him learning to accept our word on the authority we have as his parents. But it isn’t the weed pulling that makes for a beautiful garden, is it?
“It’s none of your business what happens to the seed; it’s your job to plant it.”
Cultivating life – planting seeds – is the hard work to focus on.
Lloyd-Jones spoke in her interview within the context of reading aloud to children. In that case, story is the seed planted into the heart and mind of a child. All the adult must do is read. We need not be concerned with the specific application or understanding of the story, because the narrative in and of itself has power.
Through words exchanged, meals shared, daily work done, friendships cultivated, and more, seeds of beauty and mystery, grandeur and hope, forgiveness and simplicity are sown into a child’s heart. And as a parent, we experience our own mystery and delight as we watch the seeds grow and break through.
It may be a tedious work at times, especially when the same weeds keep coming right on up. But to see the first bit of green poke through the ground giving evidence to the seed growing deep within – that makes it all worthwhile.