You may have noticed that while I mention in this blog that I have children, I don’t talk all that much about my children being in my garden. That would be because I have a pretty strict rule in my garden which says “This part is grass. This part is my garden. The only reason this grass is here is so that you have somewhere to play, so stay out of my garden.” I know, it doesn’t fit real well into the whole kids having fun gardening thing.
I have, in the past, attempted to make gardening “fun” for my kids but I have found that in the long run it just makes more work for me and the little darlings could really care less once the blush of it being new and different has worn off. I have enough things to do in my life without trying to make things fun that they show no interest in.
This is not to say that children do not have a place in the garden. They do. It was the same place I had in my mother’s garden, one of cheap (i.e. free) manual labor. My kids weed flower beds, they haul dirt, they rake leaves, they spread mulch and they hate every darn moment of it. And that is just fine by me. I hated it too when I was a child.
But, before you go writing nasty comments to me about how precious children are and how dare I do such a thing as making them *gasp* work, I want you to consider something… Maybe making children do work is not such a terrible thing. Maybe, by making them work, and not just work but use your muscles, damn tedious hard work, I am giving my kids something greater.
I am giving my children a sense of self esteem and accomplishment. The feeling you get when you do a hard job and you finish it. The idea that they are not just guests in this household but essential members who contribute rather than just consume.
I am giving them an understanding of how difficult it is to produce something from the ground. They might just grasp the physical value of the food that sits in front of them every day and how thankful we should be to those who are willing to do the physical work day after day to make it easily available.
I am teaching them the value of hard work and giving them a really good reason to consider hanging in there at school till they have a degree, because if they don’t at least have a high school diploma (and a college one as well, preferably) this type of work will be about all they will be qualified to do.
I am instilling in them the ability to empathize with those who are not as fortunate as them and who have to do this type of work, not because their mother told them they had to, but because they would starve otherwise. Hopefully, my children will never naively utter the modern equivalent of “Let them eat cake.”
I don’t make gardening fun for my kids. To them it is work and, some days, they wish that they never had to see another flower bed. But you know what, the amazing thing is that one day they will be all grown up and they will find that they miss having a garden to work in. They will feel the need to rip up a large swath of dirt and lay in it seeds and plants and will feel wonderful when they collapse on a couch, too exhausted to even watch TV.
Or, then again, they may never want to see another flower bed. But I get work done in my garden, so it’s a gamble I am willing to take.
For what it is worth… Thanks Mom. Thanks for making me work in the garden rather than just play in it. I promise I will try to make my kids work in the garden as hard as you made us work in your garden.