A couple of Saturdays ago I was outside in the very cold weather planting peas with the babies. Although I’d recommended that we do it later in the day when it might be a little warmer, they were very insistent. We want to go outside and plant seeeeeeeds, they wheedled. I told them that planting seeds in a job that has to be done all at once–that once we were out there, I wasn’t going in until the fucking seeds were planted. FINE, we want to plant seeds! So out we went.
It’s true that I spent probably 15 minutes wandering around in circles, trying to decide where to plant them and whether to make any effort at all to prepare the soil before giving up in a haze of confusion and despair and lightly raking some dirt in one of the beds. Meanwhile the babies were standing around in their coats and hats getting cold. By the time the bed was ready for the babies to drop the seeds in, both babies were pretty unhappy and begging to go in.
NO! We are planting these peas! their grouchy mother snapped. Run around! It will warm you up! I told you we weren’t going in until we were done! Suddenly I was visited by a global memory of all the times I was freezing my ass off and totally miserable and getting yelled by a mother who was so sure we had to do some fucking thing we were doing. Maybe we did. Maybe we…didn’t.
Maybe I should have taken them inside and tried again later. But if not, I wish that instead of snapping at them, I’d at least been able to be sympathetic. Sympathetic to the little child who kept falling over and scraping his knees and getting his fat little paws all muddy. Sympathetic when he wanted to spend a reeeeeeally long time looking at the worm that popped its head up in the hole he’d just dropped a pea into. I mean, my whole motive for involving my babies in the garden is to help them see the wonder that is Growing Things. Instead I gave him about 30 seconds and then forced him to move on. Sympathetic to the child who was standing so bravely waiting for her turn to plant a row.
Things didn’t go a lot better when we transplanted the tomato sprouts into their larger pots last weekend. It was stressful keeping the babies from squashing the plants, and I’d chosen only to sprout a few because it makes me sad to throw the extras in the compost pile–stakes were high. Bun Bun was doing great, but accidentally grabbed one by the stem and I gasped in horror. I can still see the look of shame on her face.
I feel like I am sucking the joy out of the experiences that I am trying to share with my children precisely in order to create joy. I think the problem is that my expectations are on the side of unreasonable. I am not sure if it’s the expectations I have for myself–the desire to be a parent who gardens and cooks and sews and makes art with her children because these skills and experiences are important to me. Or my expectations for the babies–that they be able to control impulses and exhibit fine motor control and patience and fortitude in the face of frostbite. Or both.
Maybe the secret (rather than feeling like a failure, which, as it turns out, is rarely the key) is to balance all this striving on my part with some visits to their world, during which I try to just be with them. After all, I hear tell that’s what children like best–to feel that you enjoy their company.
Anyway, the peas have now sprouted, and the tomatoes are doing fine. I suppose we are too.