Our First Garden

I have never been a gardener. I was once an herb gardener, a few summers ago, proudly amassing three herbs – basil, mint, what was the other? – and then I birthed Bee and every single one of those green sprouts shriveled in that first bleary post-partum week. It seemed my capacity for keeping something alive was limited to one, and a newborn baby seemed an adequate top for the hierarchy.

Yet I am older (hopefully wiser?) now, and it was early May, and Bee’s junior gardening kit had just arrived from Seedling, and we had a free Saturday on the calendar, and it just seemed to me that these were the best gardening parameters a gal would ever receive. And so, our gardening efforts began.

Ken, in his typical Renaissance style, built a planter box to line the edge of our deck as Bee and I drove to the local nursery in search of vegetables we could not easily kill. Tomatoes and peppers, it was decided, but we’d need marigolds to keep the rabbits out. And should we try for herbs again? Yes, Bee had said. We’re grown-ups now, Mom.

And so, with plants in our hands, with sunscreen on our nose, we became gardeners.

Ken shoveled dirt and Bee searched for ants and I pinched myself, quite a lot, because on this breezy afternoon in May, there was peppermint in the air, there was sweat on our foreheads, there was life scattered all around us. Legged spiders. Beating hearts. Growing herbs.

Did you know it can take sixty days for a tomato plant to bear fruit? You water and wait, water and think, water and look, water and search, water and wait. And if you’re me, you water and question. Is it getting enough sun? Am I watering too much? The leaves are looking yellow. Will this work? Will it survive? Will I kill it?

It seems to me, then, gardening is less an exercise in fruit and more an exercise in faith.

Last week, Bee hurt my feelings. She is a boisterous, outspoken toddler, and I am a sensitive, somewhat immature adult, and her words dove deep into my soul and discovered an insecurity that had already been growing, that I hadn’t yet found, that I hadn’t yet fully realized, and she plucked it and pulled it out and waved it like a banner.

There was no meaning behind the words, it was a moment, a song, an I like Dad better, that’s all, and of course, yes, I’m inclined to agree. Dad is amazing, the better half, the foundation of this family, and on a good day, I am grateful for this. On a bad day, my jealous roots grow thick and I fear that Bee and I will never be close. That I will be an outsider, an observer, benched in my own family. That I will wake up and discover my own insecurity has wedged something deep between Bee and I, and that she will turn 23 and forget to call me on my birthday. Or worse, that she will remember to call me on my birthday, but it will be a mercy call, a burden, a “Give me a sec, I have to call my mom really fast.”

This is irrational, I know.

And so, gardening.

It is nearing week two of our gardening experiment, and I realize this: the leaves look yellow and limp on some days, and green and lush on others, and still, you water. You rise, you brew the coffee, you fold the socks, you offer what you know, and you tend to your garden with sun and water and you try your best to sprinkle in a few helpful nutrients: patience, kindness, gentleness. Rational thoughts might help, but one can never tell.

And some plants thrive, and some do not, and still, we water. We water when our feelings are hurt, when the sun is in our eyes, when we’re distracted or busy, when we’re frustrated, angry, jealous. We water. We tend. We pray. We fold the socks.

This morning, the peppermint was looking sad. Its shoulders were slouched, and it looked forlorn, and I wondered if perhaps I’d done something wrong. Too much water? Too little sun? I started to Google.

And then, this:

Herbs are like people. Good days and bad days. Trust the process. Water + sun.

Also, faith.

This is an essay for Seedling, who helps bring kids’ ideas to life with kid-tested, parent-approved activity kits that encourage children to follow their own creative initiative (we’re using The Junior Gardening Kit and Children’s Cotton Garden Gloves). For your own adventure, register at seedling.com and get 25% off your order using the code SEEDLINGGARDEN. Offer valid one per customer; discount does not apply to past purchases, packaging, applicable taxes, or shipping and handling. Expires May 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm PST.
  • Love this. Thank you! Also, Bee’s face in the first photo… :) Elise’s twin for sure. ;)

  • It’s a beautiful process, this growing of plants and growing of hearts. We may weed and we may water, but the Creator is the one who breathes the life into herbs or tomatoes or little girls. That takes the pressure off a little, huh? Thanks for the reminder of faith.

  • I stopped breathing for just a moment when I got to the part about Bee’s words. We have yet to have a child, but I think that is one of my fears buried deep in me. It comes out in me as a teacher, and I am learning to deal with it, but I think I am terrified that as a mother, when I am supposed to have unconditional love and be the favorite and beloved, that I will somehow sit on the sidelines. Therefore, this was very comforting and resonated with me. I’m so happy to have found your blog!

    • Ah, Erin, I hear you. I don’t hear about this struggle a lot but it’s a true one for me, an honest one, and I thank you for sharing your vulnerability as well. We just need to do the best we can with what we can, I suppose. ;)

  • I’m the favored parent in our house, because I spend the most time with Forrest, and I know that hurts Matt sometimes. But I’m also the one he disobeys most, he hits and yells at when he’s frustrated. This growing of a little human is hard and fraught with so much angst and worry some days, while others it’s entirely sunshine and light and magic and beauty. Really, it’s ALWAYS the latter. xoxo

    • Oh yes, thank you for showing me the other side of being the favored parent. ;) You are so right!!! We’re the luckiest either way. ;)

  • Erin, you are a beautiful writer and you always bring it around to GRACE. I love that!

  • The more dirt…the more fun! It looks like you are both having a ball and Bee will have these blogs and pictures to look back on and remember the many good times with mom and dad!

  • Oh yes, human beings are like plants – and the other way around, the equation still works. And it seems to me that we do keep growing, fighting for water and sun to grow and learn. And, in the end, this too makes life…more peppery ;-).

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