Friday, May 15, 2009
Roses and Rutabagas
When in the garden while you're tending to a vegetable plant- watering it, inspecting its leaves for pests, making sure it's getting enough sun, and anticipating the day when you can bite into those vitamins-have you ever been irritated that the plant you are so carefully nurturing doesn't give more beauty to the world? Have you ever insisted that it become a rose and so missed the nourishment of the vegetable?
If it were your job to take care of a rose bush-to trim it, fertilize it, and make it productive-would you become impatient with its bold red blossoms and wish that they were serviceable, usable vegetables instead? Would you decide that the rose bush is useless, silly, and should become more practical? Would you try to force your flower into being a vegetable, and miss its beauty?
When starting the garden of your family, it's just the two of you together, with a plot of land, a couple of second hand garden tools, and a garden manual. You dream of a garden full of roses-wild and bright-eventually blooming large and decorating the world with their colors and fragrance. And then, your plants come up and instead of roses, you get rutabagas. Or, you get a daisy. Or up comes a rose, a rutabaga, and a mango! You didn't even know mangos grew in your area! No one in your family has ever even had a mango! How do you even take care of a mango? Do rutabagas even have a purpose? "This rutabaga got planted in the wrong garden!" You wonder why in the world you got a field full of crazy weird veggies, when all you ever wanted was a rose garden.
This all sounds pretty dumb, right?
I mean, every one knows that daisies aren't better than carrots. And carrots aren't better than daisies. But they're different. Daisies have a great purpose, and so do carrots. Trying to make my kids follow paths that aren't theirs is like trying to turn a rose into a rutabaga. Everyone is born with different purposes and talents. Getting annoyed by one of my kids for not being more into books is sort of like wishing an orchid into an orange. It's not gonna happen. And I shouldn't really be wishing it.
Was it Franz Joseph Haydn who was a terrible student? But his music! And John Nash (of Beautiful Mind fame) had a younger sister who had this to say about him:
"Johnny was always different. [My parents] knew he was different. And they knew he was bright. He always wanted to do things his way. Mother insisted I do things for him, that I include him in my friendships... but I wasn't too keen on showing off my somewhat odd brother." But he later received the Nobel Prize.
Having said all that, I still believe that there are some lessons and "fertilizers" that benefit all "plants". Love, discipline, kindness, honesty come to mind. Also, even a rose has to develop her intellect, even if it's obvious that her true talent is to give beauty to the world. You don't completely ignore mathematics, just because your child is gifted in language arts. Every good mother knows that even the best athletes should further their education as much as they can, even if they already make millions playing basketball.
I'm slowly learning to give up the control I felt entitled to when it comes to my kids. They've each come into the world with fantastic things to offer and weird/wonderful things that they're obsessed about. Even the rutabagas. It's my job to let them figure out what that is, make sure they don't ignore all the other disciplines, and then step aside. After all, I think that we can trust our kids to know what they love to do...and what they love to do is usually what they're great at!
Note: Comparing kids to different kinds of plants isn't my own idea. A long time ago a friend of mine told me about a paragraph she read in a book that compared kids to plants-some are flowers, and some are veggies. Unfortunately I never knew the name of the book or the author...but I've been thinking about the idea ever since. Sorry I don't have more info!