I am a college professor. And a gardener. And a mom. Summer break officially began this week, so my kids are home 24/7 for the rest of the summer. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the thought of keeping them constructively engaged from now through August makes me slightly anxious. Don’t get me wrong: my children are fabulous people. My son, 13, is a shy introvert with an unbelievably rich imagination. My daughter, 6, is a musical extrovert, boisterous, joyous, a mistress of the social realm.
As for me, I am 47, arthritic, intellectual. Introverted. Neurotic. I have interior monologues and dialogues that are thunderous, super-charged, and frequently self-savaging. I talk to myself out loud. A lot.
Gardening makes me calm inside. And quiet. It modulates my interior noise, or at least changes the frequency. It pries me from the past, and pins me to the present, moment to moment to moment.
Alas, for me, parenting does none of these.
Gardening feeds my soul best when I do it without my children. I love to garden best when I. Am. Alone.
I have never excluded my children from my life as a gardener. As toddlers, they “helped” me unhelpfully and now that they are older, they actually help me helpfully from time to time. I believe deeply that children belong in gardens, touching, exploring, tasting, collecting, daydreaming, and yes, learning to wait patiently for the results of their hard work to come to fruition. My kids love the yard: I planted it with their safety, their curiosity, their sensual excitation in mind. It is as much their home as it is mine.
There are a million wonderful books about gardening with children, and a million plans for planting gorgeous children’s gardens. There are dozens of gardening gurus ready and willing to tell you how best to parent your children so they come to love, rather than resent, the gardening experience.
But I’m a child too. My garden is where I go to parent myself.
It isn’t such a terrible heresy: a parent’s garden sometimes needs to be “a room of your own.” It’s okay to garden without your kids, alone.