She is wrist deep in the dirt, pushing it aside to make room for her plants. I watch her tickle the ends of the roots, just like I taught her, and like my mother taught me, before placing them gently into the soil. She is thrilled to be setting up this little vegetable plot.
The garden was her idea, my six-year-old.
I wanted to say no. Keeping vegetables alive seems like the last thing we need to be doing right now. For as I watch her tenderly care for her sweet baby plants, I feel a familiar kicking at my rib cage.
I’m 38 weeks pregnant with my third baby. In a matter of days, every last ounce of brain power and source of sustainability will be demanded by the cute little 8-pound pumpkin growing inside me. Or is it a melon? I forget the designated produce for this week.
“You really want to do this?” I asked her after she came to me with her garden dream requests, hoping my skeptical tone of voice might change her mind. It’s the same one we use when he asks for a drum set for Christmas or when she wants a puppy and PROMISES to take care of it.
“Oh yes. I do.”
“You realize that I’m not going to be able to help you with this. It’s all on you.”
“I know. I’ll take care of it. I promise.”
I’m not in the mood for saying no to her. Gardening is one of those great life skill lessons, right? Surely there’s a science lesson here she can glean from it all. I’m already feeling the familiar guilt of adding another member to our family, ultimately dividing my attention even further. Perhaps this little garden project will be a good distraction when I’m not enough?
So we got the plants.
And I had the baby.
As the weeks went by we cared for our little growing pea pods.
I was right. I did not have time to help her with her garden.
There were no lessons on carefully pruning and weeding. I couldn’t guide her in the proper amount of water. No instructions were given about the process a plant takes from seed to sprout to flower to vegetable.
I wasn’t teaching her anything at all during this first forte into farming. It was all I could do to keep myself and three little sprouts watered and properly tended to during this time.
Or was I?
As I pushed through some of the hardest times of mothering for me, the postpartum months when I was mentally and physically and emotionally drained, I found myself thinking often of those silly little plants I said I wasn’t going to care about.
It became clear to me that the lessons we teach our children about growth in nature are the very lessons we need to be listening to for our own hearts. We went on a journey together, me and my newborn baby, my daughter and her newborn plants. Here are the lessons we both listened to along the way.
Hey Mommy, when will I see the sprouts growing?
It can be hard to wait. Growth takes time. You and the sprout are not going to be the strong productive flower you want to be on the first day. Have patience. Trust the process. It’s beautiful to watch something grow.
But it’s so dark down in that dirt. How is the seed going to find the light?
It’s true. Some of those early days feel very dark. Maybe even lonely. But it only takes a teeny tiny sliver of light to know how to grow. Much like the sprout, just finding one small moment of happiness, joy, positivity makes it worth pushing forward. And hope that once it reaches the end of the dark soil, the days will be brighter beyond.
Ewww! Look! I got all dirty from digging!
Oh yes. It’s going to get messy. Balancing so many needs feels hard, confusing, never what you planned it to be. In no uncertain terms, it’s messy. But get in there! Dig into it! For it is the messy parts of life where the nutrients live. That’s what teaches you and supports you and helps you grow. Don’t be afraid to get messy!
So, what do we do next? What do they need to grow?
Water, my dear girl. Water will help them grow. When something feels off, limp, weary, it is wise to think this: just add water. Sweat from a good workout. Crying to cleanse the soul. Shower to wash away the day. Or perhaps simply drinking a glass of water. What works for the plants works for us too.
Look! We did it! Look what I picked!
We did it, indeed. Oh, how beautiful it is. With hope, patience, hard work, and a little water, look what we grew.
I guess we all learned something from this gardening adventure after all.