Growing a garden: A hidden lesson in responsibility
By Kris Hey
Spring planting time is here, but my son and I got an early start.
When I want to do something it’s usually now, so he and I went to the store to buy seeds a few weekends ago. He picked corn and cucumbers, and I picked spinach and basil seeds. It was a small start, but we will see how it goes. We have room for more in another planter if this works out.
A little backstory here: I used to grow mostly hybrid tea roses – at one time I think I had 12 bushes, and I was good at it – you know, when I had all kinds of time before having a kid. So having some experience, I thought a garden would be a good idea for us. And I also fondly remember being fascinated as little girl with my grandfather’s sunflowers and tomato plants in New Hampshire.
It’s hard to find the time for quality activities to do with your kids when you work all day, and the night includes making dinner, helping with a pile of homework and making sure basic hygiene is complete before bedtime at a decent hour. I am happy if I can accomplish most of these things every night. And, I will be honest, sometimes dinner is Ramen noodles for him. Maybe soon he can have a fresh veggie with them.
Despite our exciting evenings, we make time for our garden. Our time together is important, and I enjoy doing things with my son. We’ve made it our thing, and dad just sits by in wonder at our budding greens. But my husband has things he does with our son alone, too. I think that it’s important for each parent to do things one-on-one with your child as well as doing things as a family.
We may not have as much time as other moms and sons, but we take care of our garden together, and it has become a ritual in the morning and before dark to check to see what’s coming up. He gets very excited to see the results of his efforts. Right now, the cucumbers are our biggest accomplishment.
We could sit on the couch and watch TV or he could play “Minecraft” or “Skylanders” with his free time, which would be much easier, but part of my job as a mom is to teach my son about life and taking responsibility. And if you can make teaching responsibility fun, even better. It sure isn’t fun for him to clean stinky guinea pig cages and scoop the cat litter, but that is his responsibility now. He’s 10 and old enough to take care of our family pets.
With the garden, though, he doesn’t think of it as a chore (score one for me). He thinks it’s fun, and he was all in from the start. We pulled out some leftover Black Cow, blended it with our own yard dirt, and he helped me spread the mixture evenly in the planter. We followed the seed directions, made neat rows, and he pressed in holes, dropped in seeds and covered them. Each day, we check to see if the garden needs watering, and sometimes a sheet covering if the temperatures are expected to drop.
If something withers and dies, and I am sure something will, there won’t be consequences. Instead, we will both learn what we did wrong so we can try to get it right the next time. After all, this is an exercise in making responsibility fun. It’s not cleaning guinea pig cages.
Hopefully, some day soon we will enjoy the veggies and herbs of our labor.
Wish us luck. Things are looking good so far.
Here are some resources if you are thinking of starting a garden with your child:
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