Apparently mums are fall flowers. Who knew? Probably everyone except me. In all my years, I never realized this until very recently. My landscaping/gardening learning curve continues to slowly and steadily climb upward as I am consistently amazed by how little I still know. My ignorance supply seems to be endless. Lately, all I see in every store that sells plants of some sort are mums or chrysanthemums if I want to be exact. Mums, mums, mums, mums! So, one day last week as I was buying two new hedge plants to bring home and kill, I also purchased two giant mums (most likely destined to meet the same demise as the shrubs). The sign said “annuals”, so I don’t think they come back every year. But, according to a google search, mums do. Maybe not all mums do. How’s a girl to know? It’s pretty much a crapshoot with me anyway.
Speaking of crapshoots…that’s sorta how I feel about the art of parenting from time-to-time….especially lately. It doesn’t matter how many books one reads on parenting or how educated they are or how much experience they have….parents are all in the same boat with this gig. The learning curve is winding, long and neverending….it’s full of surprises. I suppose that’s good though. It seems every age, every season offers an opportunity for a parent to doubt or second guess oneself. For instance, learning to let a child learn to fall asleep by themselves — hard work. Or, teaching a toddler to share toys — more hard work. Allowing them to make mistakes and sometimes fall down so they can learn how to get back up and try again — very hard work. Giving them room to make choices, but controlling just enough of each situation until they are mature enough to handle a little more leeway — hard, hard, hard. Most recently, I struggle with one minute finding myself confident and sure that allowing them to bear the burden of paying their own way through college is the wisest decision I could make. The next minute I am doubting that decision as I watch them struggle, penny pinch, and choose gasoline or school supplies over food.
In all these examples (and many more), the first thing I have always wanted to do is step in and rescue them. I could. It would be quick, easy, and I could help minimize their suffering or pain….for the immediate future. In the long run, they would learn little and it would ultimately impair them. So, five seconds later, I am back to believing with assurance that if I rescue them, they will not learn…they will not sleep (and neither will I), they will not grow and mature into the independent, caring, well-rounded adults I wish them to become.
It really is a balancing act to know when to lean in and when to step out. Each situation requires careful consideration and individual attention….sometimes a firm “no”, sometimes tough love, and still other times empathy and compassion is demanded. It’s the give and take, the push and the pull. It’s learning when and how to lead and teach; then learning when it’s time to listen, extend grace, and guide by their side; and finally learning to find the courage to let them go. In one word: It is Exhausting! Don’t get me wrong….it’s not all work and no joy. The dance can be beautiful if produced with the right mix of planning, prayer, wisdom, grace, compassion, effort, creativity, freedom, boundaries, courage, strength, and discipline. And, there is so much more that goes into this job called parenting. It blows my mind.
I often find myself bewildered by both plants and parenting. Luckily, the kids have fared better than the plants. My poor plants. One of these days I hope to figure out how to keep them alive longer. Meanwhile, I’ll keep focusing on parenting well. I believe parenting truly is the hardest and most fulfilling work I have ever attempted. Even on the days that I feel like it’s pretty much a crapshoot, I am so thankful for this job!