June 03, 2006

Marigold truths

Gardener thinks big thoughts

I have a gardening book I bought at the Willimantic Food Co-op where I do most of my food shopping and some household shopping too.

The book is Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. I spent much of last winter reading it. Toward spring, I began carefully re-reading some of the entries on varieties of vegetables and making a rough diagram of what I wanted to plant, and when -- and where.

I do not have a big area that gets all-day sun. So I am planting here and there and starting small. I hope each year to expand my work.

The Garden Primer is excellent, expecially for a relative beginner like me. I am not as much a beginner now, however, as I was last year, before reading this book!

For example, the other day I was looking over some plants at the grocery store-- they were arrayed outside on little bleachers, a vantage point from which they could observe the parking lot games people play.

A woman nearby asked me if I could identify a plant she was looking at, and I could. Then looking at some marigolds, she casually began to explain that her son had brought her a little marigold plant he had started at school, which refused to grow, so she was going to buy at big one at the store and kid him with "Oh, look how your plant has grown!"

Without stopping to think that it was really none of my business, I said: "Oh, wait, dont do that! You could talk to him about the fact that it hasn't grown and think how to fix it. It could be an excellent lesson. You could discuss what it might need, water, sun, fertile soil, and so on. Does it get enough sun? Has it been warm enough?"

Marigolds, I told her, seem to like hot, sunny weather, and it hasn't really been all that hot here lately. Maybe his little plant will do better when it warms up.

I told her a little story about the peas I planted this year; they say to plant them in March, and mine weren't in the ground until late April. They stuck up their elbows and just sat like that a while, a small nudge of stem. Then they grew about 3 inches high... and again just sat. Then suddenly it was summer and they shot up! So I don't know whose idea it was to go out in a snowstorm on St. Patrick's day to plant peas.

I told her another little story about the year I planted marigolds- tall yellow ones-- along with some other flowers. It was a dry summer and my garden did not get watered. Everything but the marigolds died.

I have had some gardening experiences, myself, but having read Garden Prier cover to cover, I can fit them into a theoretical framework and speak with more confidence. (This is not really the goal of her book I expect, that the reader should be able to advise others in parking lots! But still...)

The woman seemed a little surprised by my remarks, but nodded thoughtfully. She asked me a couple of other questions, and then left -- without buying the plant.

I hate the idea of lying to kids. I did enough of it when my children were small, creating fantasy Christmases for them, producing 'proof' of the tooth fairy and what not. Well, I am not quite sure those were lies, exactly. Illusions, perhaps, fostered by me, sort of in fun. In time, I learned to foster their confidence in their own judgment.

Parents should not, I believe, get in the habit of trying to protect their kids from unpleasant truths. Intead, we should help our children come to grips with reality and think about what we can do to help a situation -- or if nothing, to accept it.

If you get in the habit of protecting your kids from potential little hurts (I am not talking about actual harms, but knowlede of unpleasant or sad things), soon you will be covering up unpleasant facts about yourself and will forget it is them you are trying to protect. (We see this happen in government on a regular basis, where hiding starts to protect the nation, or the people, but ends up as a way to conveniently mask the failings of leaders.)

Soon you no longer have the basis for a trusting relationship and the next thing you know, your kids won't listen to you, and they go out and experiment with drugs. You don't want that do you?

So come clean about the marigold, ok?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great little story. While I don't envision her son growing up and doing drugs, I do see him getting into trouble and confounded as to why his adult marigolds (or whatever the situation) didn't turn out so hot!

He calls home to Mom, crying and seeing if she can fix it.

A) She fixes it and life is sweet.
B) She doesn't fix it and sends him off to figure it out. At this point, he either learns something, or doesn't. (Maybe then he turns to drugs, maybe not. Hard to say for me)

9:49 AM  
Blogger Palema said...

Thanks for your comments, Anon.

I may have skipped a step in there. It's not a straight line from marigold disappointment to drugs; but a common characteristic of substance abusers is that they cannot handle difficulties well, especially feeling bad, so they tend to drink or drug to mask or obliterate any misery.

2:07 PM  

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