Gardening with teenagers can be full of surprises. My 14 year old dissed my efforts at getting her involved with our gardening project. Despite my rejection, I combined a shopping trip for clothes with a stop by our local Lowes and just happened to check out its seed selection positioned at the front of the store. Soon thereafter, even my Boo had gotten into the spirit of pretty flowers and wanted a theme to her gardening space. So we left the store and finally had my final confederate in place and excited about gardening. She chose flowers, tall and pretty ones and even selected those that attracted butterflies. I had to quietly smile as I knew once we planted, she too would know the anxieties and expectations of everyone who ever placed a seed in the ground. How long before the seed breaks open and we can see the first green growth. How often should I water it? Should we fertilize now? What if the plants don’t flower?
And so it goes. At 14 her questions are focused on the here and now. But as her dad, I know the garden teaches life lessons that apply to people also. Do I let the plants wither if she forgets to water them to teach her actions have consequences? Do I harp on her to weed the bed or do I let the weeds choke out the desired plants? As in life, I guess we will just pick our battles. Planting a seed and birthing a plant is just the beginning of the process. Gardening has so many similarities to raising children that many writers have covered this better than I ever could. But how can you not stop and point out that a garden needs tending in order to thrive. Overworking your garden also has consequences, just as overbearing parents stunt a child’s learning process.
One of my favorite old country witticisms, involves an urbanite driving into the country and stopping to marvel at an old country gardeners prize collection of flowers and plants. The old gardener was covered in sweat and his overalls told the story of the long hours he had spent taking care of his plot of land. The old gardener fought the weeds and the rabbits as best he could and his garden was a wonderful collection of a variety of beautiful flowers, all ordered and placed so that they could thrive. The urbanite effused the praises of how beautiful the garden was and the gardener acknowledged the praise and continued to weed and tend his plants. As the city slicker prepared to leave, he walked over to shake the old gardener’s hand, telling him that God had worked wonders in his little acre. The old gardener looked him square in the eye and said, “you should have seen it when God had the garden by himself.” With that the gardener went back to his weeding, and tending to his plants.
God gave us the tools to tend a garden, but He left it up to us to use them. You can plant your seeds and leave it up to God to care for them or you can use what he has given you to tend the garden. I know there is an obvious duality in the above sentence and it is intended. I hope my children will learn from our gardening, much as I learned from our gardens that my mother had when we were younger. If they happen to learn a life lesson or two from the experience then so be it.