Parenting lessons from an overtended garden

The children are harvesting our city garden, picking tomatoes, squash, and zucchini, but there are a few bare spots where plants so tenderly tucked into the earth didn't grow.

It was not from neglect, but rather from caring for them too much.

The children overwatered, overweeded, overpoked, and overprodded. What those plants needed was a more casual attitude.

I pointed out to the children that after planting and fertilizing, watering and weeding, they needed to allow plants to grow on their own.

As I was explaining that they were smothering their watermelons with too much love and affection (we never did get a watermelon), I realized I could very well direct those comments to myself.

It was hard for me, at the beginning of summer, to allow Zach, 8, to go to the park alone. It was much easier to have him home in the house or yard, where I knew he was safe.

It was hard to allow Josh, 12, to go beyond our neighborhood on his 10-speed bike, and hard to let Autumn, 7, walk alone to her playmate's house on the next block.

But I could quickly see the children were being stifled by being kept too close to home.They needed to spread their wings.

My husband and I had done the basic work. The children were generally well-behaved in public situations. They obeyed the rules of telling us where they were going, and they were rarely late if they said they would be home at a certain time.

I had to let them go -- and grow!

Now, I am harvesting the rewards.

Josh tells funny stories about his adventurous bike rides to the library. He has also broadened his reading in the process without anyone's prodding.

Zach comes home from the park with new jokes, new friends, and an improved ability to slide into third base.

Autumn and her girlfriend are enthusiastic roller skaters. When they're not together, they enjoy calling each other on the phone.

There will be another garden next year -- and more lessons for all of us to learn.

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