At the time of this writing, we are in full planting mode out here in this ‘ole prairie. Things are finally turning green, buds are popping out new life, bugs are preparing their annual assault on house and human, hints of colored flowers are making their appearance, and spring allergies are wreaking their rhythmic havoc on nasal passages.
Before we get to it, let it be known far and wide that I am a very amateur gardener with no real knowledge on what I’m doing. Sure, I know the basics. Good soil plus water plus seed equals (yay!) plants. But all the nuances in between that one garners after many years of experience I do not yet possess, I do have colossal (albeit false) hopes at one day becoming a real, true gardener.
I suppose I can say the same thing about my role as a mother.
In fact, in this spring season of planting, I have been seeing so many parallels with parenting. Much like my knowledge in gardening, my parenting knowledge is amateur. I feel like I know the very basics on how to nurture and help a child thrive. But all the maturity, all the expertise, all the wisdom? I haven’t been a parent long enough to know all of that. Yet, I have high hopes of being the best mother I can be for my children. But, sometimes I feel like I’m planting and watering, planting and watering, planting and watering and seeing well, little to no results.
Last fall, I found myself straying around the jumbo-size laden aisles of Costco eating my body weight in salmon spread and cracker samples. Somewhere along the way, I noticed a crowd gathering around a small area of the store, and I casually ventured over to see what kind of succulent snack was drawing a crowd. But instead of a food demo, I found a crate loaded high with dirty bags of tulip bulbs. Feeling slightly let down by my shopping peers, I watched as people excitedly grabbed the bags and loaded them into their carts.
Curious, I picked up a bag myself and read the directions: “Plant before first freeze in the fall for a beautiful yield of tulips next spring.”
Next spring? I wondered. People are going crazy for something they won’t even get to enjoy until next spring?
Call it peer pressure, I figured my fellow Costco members could not be wrong in their frenzied bargain purchases, so I threw a bag in my cart en route to the next sampling station.
The night before the first freeze, I enlisted the help of my daughter, and we dug circles around a few trees and our mailbox and planted the bulbs according to their specified directions. Afterward, every day for a couple of weeks, my daughter would ask when the tulips would bloom. Every time I would tell her “after winter is over.” Disappointed that her need for instant gratification wasn’t met, she sulked every time I told her we had months to wait to reap the rewards of our planting efforts.
Like her, I myself had doubts. How trustworthy were those Costco tulips bulbs? Had I followed the instructions close enough? Will the ground really ever truly unthaw? Will life ever bloom from our efforts?
As spring came closer, I peered out my bedroom window to our front lawn every morning to see if I saw any signs of growth. Nothing. Weeks later. Nothing. I began to think my purchase at Costco and the back-breaking work that is bulb planting was all for naught. Then the blizzard of April 2018 came. Then, I really felt despair. Then, it snowed again four days later. Then, I was really convinced the frigid conditions had caused the bulbs themselves to decide to just give up and say, “Forget you, guys! To dust I shall return!”
But, then something miraculous happened. One rainy day, the slightest peep of green started showing from where we planted. Then, more green became visible. Then, more. And now, today, we have full bloomed flowers.
Life prevailed. Our planting efforts prevailed.
I think the same is true in parenting. All the seeds we planted, all the times we watered, all the times we repeated ourselves over and over and over until we wanted to punch our own selves in the face. All of it will not be for naught. We will see the blooms of kindness when we plant them in great measure and water by example.
We will see the blooms of patience, of love, of gentleness, of compassion… of all the things we diligently allow to be planted and watered in them. We may not see any sign of it for a long time, but then, something miraculous will happen: Bits and pieces will begin to become visible.
The Costco bulbs coupled with our eternal winter taught me something. They taught me hope. Today, I have hope that all the planting we are doing in our children’s lives are taking root somewhere. Even when we think the harsh worldly conditions have snatched them away… I have hope we will see them bloom.
Follow Tracy on her blog, littleparentontheprairie.com.