It was Sunday afternoon and the loosely organized girl group in our neighborhood was meeting at our house. The youngest of the bunch, my eight-year-old, started drifting off into boredom as the older girls began playing amongst themselves. Trying to head off her inevitable question “Can I watch something on TV?” I asked her if she wanted to come out and help me garden. She looked at me as if I had asked her to go out back and skin a cat.
There are moments in my life as a mother when I struggle between giving my daughters the freedom I never had in childhood and, more like my mother before me, just plowing ahead and telling them what they are going to do because, as a mother, I think I know what’s best for them. This was such a moment.
The lines were drawn. The battle was on - petulant child versus headstrong mother. “You’re going out back,” I said. “No. I don’t want to go,” my child said defiantly. The protest cries of indentured servitude and forced labor came forth through the words of an eight-year-old. “I hate gardening. I hate you. And I’m never going to take out the trash again.” I’m not sure where the statement about taking out the trash came from but I can only imagine when one is on the road of protest it’s best just to let the stream of consciousness flow.
By the time we had trudged out into the backyard I was positive she would have childhood flashbacks while reading the Grapes of Wrath at seventeen. Reluctantly, she chose the first seed packet to plant. With a heavy sigh she picked up the water hose and watered the soil. I asked her to read the seed depth on the back of the package. I taught her the difference between a half an inch and a quarter inch and she measured out the different depths for each type of seed. I brought our label maker outside. She typed in the names of the vegetables sounding out the spelling for beets, lettuce, kale, carrots, and more. We were taking on lessons in math, spelling and reading all on a Sunday afternoon, without a workbook or homework page in sight. Then the water fight started. Drenched from head to foot, we were soon laughing and giggling at our very grubby and wet selves.
Right before the first seed went into the soil, I suggested we say a little blessing to help it grow. Together we looked down upon the seeds in her small hand. She whispered, “O.k., little seeds - be good to my Mommy. Grow up big and strong so she can eat lots of salad for dinner.” One seed was dropped into the ground. Then another toppled downward. As we worked our way down the rows she reminded me, “Remember what I said about not taking out the trash?” I had actually forgotten but suddenly recalling the battle cry from before I replied, “Yes.”
“Well, I didn’t mean it. And I do like gardening,” she quietly confessed.
So do I little one. So do I.