Gardening: Every mother’s trick

In the hopes of spring… here’s a little piece on trying to garden with children….

Gardening: Every mother’s trick to get something done under the guise of a game.

This is a fine line. Be careful not to scare them off by throwing a bag of grass seed on their backs too quickly. Make them earn this privilege. It’s all about presentation. If they sniff out work, they’ll be on their bikes and forcing you to watch so that they don’t kill themselves on the road in a hot second. Wait to reveal it for the work it is when you are sick of looking at them. Scare them off on your timeline, not theirs.

A wagon is a wonderful ruse. Pull it out of the garage and give them a ride in it. If you feel strong, go ahead and run across the yard pulling them wide open. It’s likely a wheel or plastic side will fall off the wagon. You’ll be inclined to curse the cheap manufacturer, but the kids will love it. Take a corner too fast and roll them out. Aim for a bush with thorns. Jump the shrub your mother-in-law gave you that’s dead and brittle. Don’t arrive at the garden without some tears and bloodshed. Starting a gardening project like this will make things go more smoothly. They’ll be begging for rights to run this killing machine. Dole it out in small doses.

Assign jobs appropriately. Give them jobs you won’t be mad about doing over. This is a “better than nothing” venture. The odds aren’t in your favor, but sometimes they’ll succeed when you least expect it. Having the weeds put in the wagon and dumped six feet away in the middle of the yard is no worse than no help at all. Take this in stride. However, should they make the 7-foot journey and actually dump them in the right spot, it will feel like striking oil.

You’ll soon find that good jobs besides running the killing machine and digging to China, include watering the house and raking the bark off trees.

Don’t get bent out of shape over every flower popped off its stem or torn from the ground. It’s easy to go off on these things. You work all summer, every summer for eight years to finally have your garden bloom into something that’s discernible from the field growing around it. And then your 4-year-old will hand the showpiece flower to you.

When this happens, stop whatever you are doing. Focus on his charming, sweet face. He has given you the choice flower. He picked your showpiece on purpose because it was the prettiest. The fury will hit you like a ton of bricks, a quiet desperation will sneak into the back of your throat and you’ll kind of whimper. Remember, he is the imbecile you think he is. He’s four. Try not to hurt him. Instead, gather him in your arms and hug him. Hard. Then hurry to replant the wilted plant.

Of course this won’t work, the roots were run over in a gravel driveway with a couple John Deer tractors and Big Wheels before you ever saw them. They were also wrapped around his little brother’s head when he tried to take it from him. This plant will never survive. Cherish these moments of desperation, because as all the old people keep telling you, they’ll grow up soon enough. Try to imagine these people’s faces when you jab your spade into the ground.