Parenting is more like gardening. Gardeners have patience. They begin by sowing deep, rich soil. They create an environment that’s conducive to growth. Then they tenderly grow plants from seeds, and they protect seedlings until they’re strong enough to withstand the elements. And then they are continuously flexible in their approach - one year might be too dry, another too wet. There might be pests to contend with. And in the end, the finished product is never guaranteed. A gardener can create an ideal environment, but she can’t force a plant to yield a specific crop. And even a master gardener can’t make a tomato plant grow grapes instead. A gardener recognizes his role and finds joy in the element of surprise, relinquishing control and delighting in the outcome. A hydrangea might bloom blue this year, and tulip bulbs planted in the fall might grow into pink flowers in the spring and not the yellow one had expected. And yet it’s all part of the process of cultivating new life and giving it the room to flourish.
What I'm Reading
In this book, Dr. Gopnik turns her attention toward the cultural notion of “parenting.” She suggests that parents have been around for thousands of years, but the idea of parenting is relatively new. And she doesn’t condone it. What she refers to as parenting could more accurately be described as “helicopter parenting.” I agree with her assertion that we can’t, and shouldn’t attempt to, mold our children based on our ideals. She also claims that there is no right way to parent. However, she then proceeds at length to discuss research which suggests she doesn’t actually believe this to be true.
It’s easy to get lost in the weeds, and there was far more discussion of research on animals than I ever care for in a parenting book. Yet the overarching theme is inspiring. Parenting as a carpenter is parenting for us, the parents. It’s parenting to stroke our own egos. Parenting as a gardener is unconditionally accepting our children for the glorious people they already are, and creating an ideal environment from which they flourish. This is a beautiful metaphor, and I think it’s a useful guideline for parents.
“Being a good parent won’t transform children into smart or happy or successful adults. But it can help create a new generation that is robust and adaptable and resilient.”
“So our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child. Instead our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children of many unpredictable kinds can flourish.”