But there's also gardening.
That’s the activity my eldest chose as her fourth grade elective last spring. If the dark soil trapped for days under her fingernails was any indication, she loved it. Then one day, her facial expression showed a change in the forecast. A storm was brewing.
“My friends made fun of me for taking gardening,” she said with a soft sadness. “They asked why I would take an elective for something I could do at home.” Pointed down toward the floor, her gaze filled with tears, which she held onto ever so tightly. Quickly I wracked my brain trying to remember what the electives were that she’d passed upon, as there had to be more to this story.
As parents, we are all gardeners, digging for whatever emotions our children try to bury. I can only imagine how difficult this will become, as they get older and want to conceal bigger, scarier things under heavier soil.
Finally, a seedling.
“My friends know I don’t have a yard.”
With that I understood exactly what my daughter was trying to describe, and why she was struggling. Shame is incredibly difficult to experience, let alone convey. And no matter how small it may seem to someone else, for the victim, it is overwhelming. But no ten year old should ever experience shame, especially over landscaping, or a lack thereof. In all honesty, it was hard for me not to absorb her feelings, but I know better.
So I transplanted them.
“Today I read an article about Taylor Swift,” I shared. "She bought a huge apartment in New York City. I’m sure it’s one of the most amazing homes. Can you imagine?" My mother lives near Swift's beautiful beach home, so I knew she could. "But it didn’t have a garage," I continued, "and a huge celebrity like that wants privacy going in and out of her home. So, she converted the whole first floor into a garage. Such a cool idea. But you know what else Taylor Swift’s new home doesn’t have? A yard."
I followed up with all the obvious points- that it’s what and whom is inside a home that matters- but I didn’t need to. She knows what our home is, and what it stands for.
That weekend we bought lots of pots, soil and seeds for a patio garden even Taylor would love. All spring and summer, we tended to that garden. We had big successes and even bigger failures, but we truly blossomed.
Of all that we grew- personally, figuratively and literally- the most difficult was this sunflower. It finally bloomed in the end of August, days before my daughters returned to the school that they love... the school with the sunflower logo.
Just goes to show that with love (and a little bit of fertilizer) anyone can grow something beautiful.