The first year I met my husband, we had a tomato-growing contest. We spent one lovely spring morning in his backyard, scratching in the earth and planting our seeds (surprisingly romantic). The sprouts took on a symbolic meaning and I poured my energies each weekend into nurturing, weeding, and fertilizing.
He ignored them and watched football most weekends
His tomatoes, planted in a nice spot exposed to sun and rain, were left alone. He checked in on them regularly, making sure they were safe, but not interfering with nature. My tomatoes, flooded with love and nurture, all primped and preened and spoiled rotten, were lousy. His were amazing.
The renovation made me think about the tomatoes because for kids and tomatoes, there is some magic balance between nurture and neglect. (I realize neglect is the wrong word—it sounds ugly but I think that is why I like using it.) Put it this way: there is a fine line between mothering and smothering.
It takes courage to leave your kids alone—more courage than I usually have. If they know they are loved, it’s often the right thing to do. I thank the renovation for forcing me to let the kids fend for themselves more than I otherwise would.
The greatest challenge of parenting is allowing kids to develop self-reliance and independence while knowing they are loved and supported.
I was busy through the renovation and had less hands-on time with the kids. I missed them. It made me really focus on improving the quality of my time with the kids. I made sure it was intense, fun and loving.
The rest of the time they were left to their own devices. Lo and behold, the older two became attentive shepherds to their younger siblings. They developed a whole bunch of games that all five of them could play. They became better friends. The middle boy, following the lead of his older siblings, became a voracious leader. The five year old learned to ride her bike and now explores the neighbourhood on wheels.
I am really proud of them. There is a part of me that thinks if I had had more time last year, they might not be doing as well. Like my husband’s tomatoes, they got just the right amount of love and sunshine—all on their own.