Kids have a way of making things more challenging. Even as they become more capable and independent they can and often do present hurdles in life. It’s not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing. It just is. Raising kids is rewarding, but in part the great reward only comes because it can be a great a challenge. A beautiful, fulfilling, amazing challenge, but still one of the greatest and longest challenges most of us will ever face.
Right now I’m at the stage where it’s hard to even go to the bathroom or get dressed without my son trying to join me. Turn my back on him near a spray bottle of anything vaguely dangerous? No way. Expect him to fully grasp the concept of something like knitting, writing, or weeding? Hardly.
That would make anyone stop and think twice about doing something like growing a garden full of tender plants that a toddler could happily dig out or rip up without having any idea why it’s not okay.
So why in the world am I even considering doing this before my kids are old enough to have a semi-coherent conversation in which their sentences are longer than two to three words?
Well, I’ll admit, there’s probably going to be a small fence involved as soon as I can direct some funds towards one, especially because summer 2017 will include a barely-one-year-old and a three year old. That’s a little more intimidating than summer 2016 with just one toddler who obeys fairly well when he’s threatened with a timeout. No energetic outdoors-loving child really wants to be stuck in his bedroom for even a few minutes when there’s perfectly fun things to do outside that won’t get him into trouble.
I fully expect things to go wrong sometimes, too. Maybe some seedlings will be lost to tiny hands or toy gardening tools. Maybe my potting soil will get spilled. Maybe my berries will get eaten before they make it inside for the dessert I had planned for them. Maybe my seeds will be spaced terribly or wasted because “eight inch spacing” means nothing to a two-year-old who found a seed packet. I’m sure these things will frustrate me greatly sometimes.
But you know what else I’ll get to experience? What my boys will grow up with?
Organic homegrown food in their meals.
Bugs and critters. (Okay, I’m only selectively thrilled about this one.)
Digging in the dirt.
Warm food picked right off the plant.
Watching a seedling grow.
Learning patience; waiting for a seed to germinate, to put out food, for the harvest to ripen enough to pick.
Hard work weeding, composting, growing, and doing hard work with their parents.
Getting the reward of that hard work.
A greater connection to how food comes to be.
How could all that not be worth some frustration sometimes while they’re still young? If I’m at all serious about gardening and everything else, then sharing in that with my sons should be worth the trouble. After all, I’m not looking to raise kids who can’t put down the xBox controller and use their imagination.
I know how we handle other things right now, things that most parents have to decide how to handle. We get him a toy toolset and teach him not to hit people with the hammer. We get him a broom his size and teach him not to spread the dirt pile I was about to sweep into the dust pan. We get him a toy lawnmower so he can copy what he watches his dad do. We don’t let him handle sharp or breakable dishes but we let him close the dishwasher and hit the start button after we load it.
Yeah, sometimes all of that gets frustrating, and sometimes I save things for nap time if it’s something I’m not up to doing with his “help” (like cleaning the toilet. But we care about him being able to learn how to do things in an age-appropriate way. This is what sets a foundation for kids who grow into adults who can do things for themselves and take care of responsibilities.
Why wouldn’t I do that for the garden, too?