I am plotting yet again. On so many levels.
Plotting my next adventure, plotting the renovation of a bathroom, plotting how to get a friend to spend a week with me at my mountain cabin, plotting a surprise for another
friend’s significant birthday celebration. Plotting and scheming with intentions of hatching good things down the road.
I recently started a new kind of plot–a bit of land, 10×20 to be exact–at the community garden near my city home. I haven’t gardened in years, having given it up when I was living at an altitude of 8,000 feet. Growing season was too short, deer too hungry,
water in far too short of supply. Now, at mile high, I try again.
My plot is one of the largest in the community garden, inherited when the previous owner defaulted on its care. It has been tilled and planted with tomatoes, herbs, onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkins, cutting flowers. Fellow gardeners have given
their advice. Friends have helped me to plant. Family will water when I am away. It is a plot to be raised by a village.
Yesterday, while weeding under the hot sun, I recalled a time when my boys were adolescents. I was a frustrated parent–insecure in my abilities, anxious whether I could properly prepare them to face the world on their own in just a few short years. I
wished that my boys would respond to my caretaking as did the plants in my
garden. I was willing to do the weeding and watering but I so wanted to see results.
My brother once remarked that back when we were growing up, we could have been called the “free-range” kids on the block. The four of us spent a fair amount of time unsupervised once we were all in school and my mother returned to work.
We were free to run as we chose with only each other to watch time and activities. We rode our bicycles or walked to swim team practice. We fixed our own meals. We did a few chores. We roamed the neighborhood and for the most part, kept out of trouble. In summer months we’d stay outside until complete darkness, just in range of my mother’s whistle which was our signal to return home.
There were others like us. Lots of kids were governed in that time by a mother’s mantra that directed us to “go outside and find something to do.” But in those carefree times, other families kept a far tighter rein on their kids. The kids across the street were in the full-time charge of a nanny until they were in high school. Maria was always on the
lookout for time wasted and was responsible for halting many a playful plot. The mother who employed Maria once suggested to my mother that the four of us would never amount to much. There was far too much free time at our place, she said, and we were at great risk of turning down the wrong path once we hit high school or, at the very least, we’d surely fail to reach potential.
She was wrong. While we are not perfect, my mother raised four children who have made their way in life pretty well. We survived and even flourished growing up with what I suppose could have been viewed by others as a laissez-faire parenting style. Not one of us has spent too much time on the wrong path and we’ve each reached our own version of potential. Our grandparents, various coaches, teachers and mentors all had a role in preparing us for our future. But mostly it was our parents.
Working in my garden, I have discovered there are many different types of plots in the Pea Patch community garden. Some are highly organized and neat while others are more relaxed and haphazard. Some have lots of weeds, some have none. Some are filled primarily with one sort of plant (usually tomatoes) and others have one or two of almost every sort of plant that can be grown in this part of the country. Some of the gardeners spend a great deal of time looking over their shoulder to see what is happening in the plot next door. Others keep their nose to the dirt and rarely look up. Some rush in only
occasionally to efficiently weed and water. Others spend lots of hours on-site in slow and methodical pursuit. There are talkative gardeners who spend a little while on their crops and a longer while chatting to other gardeners, while others apparently speak only to their plants.
Through the process of raising my children, I discovered there are many types of parenting as well. Not one is foolproof and many are workable. I was a parent somewhat like and somewhat unlike my mother. Changing times dictated changes in what could and should be done to raise a child, my ex-husband was quite different from my father and his upbringing quite different from mine. My parenting approach
evolved less as an organized method and more as a hit-and-miss potpourri of
styles learned from my mother, my mother-in-law, many friends and a few
good “how-to” books.
Through the years, I tended my children as today I do my garden plot. I show up consistently to work my garden, I weed when needed, I water when dry, I yank out the plants that aren’t working, I feed the plants that are thriving. I’m learning what works and what doesn’t. And despite weather, bugs and the days I feel too weary, I see my garden progress. Down the road I will have a small harvest of good things to show for
all my summer plotting. Soon I will be eating fresh vegetables and enjoying cut flowers. I will be satisfied with what I have accomplished and relish what my garden has produced.
Now when I sit beneath the clouds and the bluebird sky at the end of the day, I am sometimes surprised but without fail pleased that I was able to pull off the parenting gig. I survived and they survived. I did the best I could as a parent, doing what I could do with the skills I had at any particular time. Sometimes it wasn’t good enough. Other times I think I nailed it. My boys have been launched handily into the world via a mix of parenting styles and the influence of a village as well. And while others had a hand in
their send offs, I know the care and tending by their parents was fundamental. We did what we did not know we could do when we started out as young parents and when our children let fly, they made us proud.
And for what better harvest could I have plotted?