Gardening With Children — Sho’ Nuff’s Take

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.

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14 thoughts on “Gardening With Children — Sho’ Nuff’s Take

  1. anggitacy says:

    you have wonderful garden, cute kids,eat fresh food. you must be so happy. so envy. 😀

  2. Thank you for sharing this complicated story of parenting plants & people. My 11 1/2 yr old daughter will help with the ducks (help may be a strong word some days) but is not big on weeding or raking unless there’s a cash incentive. Which, when pressed, I’ve been known to offer. (Those leaves are not going to rake themselves, alas!) I hear ya, I hear ya & wish you all the best on balancing this summer. 🙂

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      @Lori, kudos to you for telling the sho’ nuff truth about the quid pro quo you sometimes work out with your daughter.

      I suspect many gardener-parents of our generation have what you and I are both describing. There are a LOT of reasons why this is normal for our generation while it might seem “wrong” to people of, say, our grandparent’s era. In some ways it even seems really very reasonable to me and even, potentially, *healthy.*

      Somehow the gardening literature never explores this matter carefully; it seems to me to comprise a lot of romantic twaddle about how kids “should” feel about gardening if they’ve been introduced to it “properly” by the gardening parent. It’s twaddle, and yet another avenue that leads to parents feeling inadequate.

      I kinda sorta prefer to normalize what people DO experience rather than keep on writing imaginary scripts about what they SHOULD experience.

      • Ok and here’s the postscript…when my daughter came home from school yesterday, I told her the corn was up & I needed to hurry & fence it before the ducks got there first. She said “you planted the corn???” apparently disappointed I didn’t ask her to help me…sigh. Can’t win for losing some days in the parenting/gardening dept!!! 😉

      • Sho'Nuff says:

        ROFL!!

        Parenting. Who Knew?!

  3. Margaret Katranides says:

    Though I grew up on a farm, the most gardening I ever accomplished with my kids was planting a couple of trees. My daughter has brought her great-grandmother’s gardening bent into the open, and she and her husband rent a share of a people’s garden in Leipzig, leading her to explore species and recipes that I couldn’t have given her. My son finds that sweating during a tennis match or sliding into second is as close as he wants to get to dirt. Would things have been different if I had chosen differently? I doubt it. We can choose today’s activities (to a certain extent), but we can’t choose the outcomes. The important thing is that what we do with our kids helps them feel confident and loved; those are the areas I’d try to do better if I had it to do over again.

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      Your comment re: being raised on a farm but your daughter “reconnecting” to her great grand-mother’s gardening bent on her own rather than through you is not so very different my own family’s situation. My grandmother and her sisters were subsistence farmers, basically; they had NO intention for the next generation to merely “subsist” … they wanted them out of the field, in school, middle class, in a factory, with a career, upwardly mobile, or in one way or another enjoying the benefits WWII peace dividend that the Baby Boomer generation inherited. My mother learned to cook and preserve some very basic foods from my grandmother, but she didn’t have anything to do with the garden. She only picked up gardening for pleasure — a few roses and houseplants, spring lettuces, herbs, and summer tomatoes, — after I was in high school. She didn’t teach me to garden. I’ve sort of “recovered” this family legacy, or resurrected it. I didn’t receive it from my mother, and she didn’t receive it from her’s.

  4. normaaroy says:

    Stunning garden! You have adorable kids and a real gift with plants 😀 Wonderful blog x

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      You are so very kind. Please be aware that I photograph my garden Very Carefully to hide many unsightly views. There is a reason I use so many close ups! 🙂

  5. This is brilliant! I completely relate to your mindset. My garden is my sanctuary.

  6. Laurrie says:

    “My garden is where I go to parent myself” — that is going to stick with me as I escape the things I want to avoid and spend time (I “putter”) in my garden. I have no children at home any more, and no grandchildren yet, but I have cares and concerns to put aside and the garden is where I go. I loved this open, honest post.

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      Oh! I’m so *pleased* you’ve understood what I was trying to say. What you’ve written is exactly it! Thanks for visiting and taking time with my scribblings!

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