I have fallen in love with my garden.
Something about our small patch of outside space has wormed its way into my mother’s heart.
Maybe it is because I have watched my husband totally transform this garden over the three short years that we’ve lived in our little home. Slowly but surely he has reworked what was once an unloved lawn and motley bunch of bushes into a sweet space for our girls to play, for our family to sit and eat, and for me to school during the warmer months.
Maybe it is because of all the mornings I have watched one of my daughters dash outside before breakfast to see if anything new has sprouted or grown or changed, or if anything edible can be harvested. The way she delights in finding and sharing new garden discoveries warms my heart.
Maybe it is because our garden has become a much needed haven and sanity saver during this unprecedented season of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Or maybe it is because our garden reminds me so much of our own little family – its young age and early stages of growth and maturity reflecting back so much of our own season of little people and little sleep.
Everything we’ve planted is still very much in its infancy. I dream of what it might look like once the flower beds, fruit tree and berry bushes mature. But I know I cannot fast forward the maturing process. I can invest my time, love and effort. I can plan and shape and nurture to the best of my abilities. But I cannot control it. Ultimately, it has a life of its own.
I am most definitely an amateur gardener. I dig in flip flops, and have been known to lovingly water weeds that I thought were lettuces. I grew up in a flat with no garden to speak of. I have no backlog of experience to draw on, no history of growing things from seed or harvesting food for the table to lean into. I am learning by doing, literally, one messy failure and unexpected success at a time, always alongside my curious, eager little girls.
But motherhood has made me brave.
It has emboldened me to see potential in places that I am unfamiliar with, and to look closer to find out more. It has encouraged me to take a flying leap at learning all I can about something that might be uncomfortable and strange to start with, just because I feel the fit might make a meaningful difference for my family.
I know very little about gardening. But I am learning as I go. Because I know that something about planting, growing, watching and waiting is good for the soul. There are lessons to be learned, out there in the dirt, and I want my girls and I to learn them together.
Because, let’s face it – I knew nothing about being a mother. But in mothering my little women, I am learning who they are, leaning into what they need, and doing my best to serve them, one imperfect effort at a time.
Equally, I knew nothing about homeschooling way back when we were starting out. But as I study my children and lay aside my own expectations of what learning should look like, I am growing in my confidence to come alongside them and nurture a lifelong love of learning.
I find much comfort in remembering that that the way I teach and mother my children or grow my garden, both literal or metaphorical, does not have to be perfect or perfectly fit a mould to be wonderful.
I recognise that there are definitely seasoned voices out there that have much to teach those of us immersed in the early years. Voices from the camps of proven methodologies, or of mothers who have bravely and boldly brought their children up in ways we might aspire to. Mothers who have been there and done that, and have learned a lesson or two along the way. I am constantly on the lookout for these mamas, and have adopted many of them as book mentors over the years. Women like Sally Clarkson and Cindy Rollins have helped shaped my mothering, my homeschooling methods, the family culture we are trying to cultivate, my attitude towards my children and the time I have been given with them. I will be forever indebted to these women.
But as I like to remind myself, often as I survey the everyday mess of my own life – where did these voices, these seasoned mothers, learn their lessons? They learned them in the trenches with their tribes, just as I am doing right now. They started out as clueless and confused and committed and crazy tired as I did. And they grew in grace and persevered in the pursuit of what is good and true and beautiful. They tried and failed and tried again.
We are the same, these older and wiser mums, these educational experts and homeschooling gurus and I. Same, but different. They might know a thing or three about maths or language arts or educational philosophy, and a whole heap about their own family and what what works or worked for them. But they do not know my children, my family, my season and my situation. They do not know how best to serve the tribe I have been given. I do.
For I am an expert too, an unrivalled specialist, a genuine pioneer. Not on motherhood but on mothering my own family. Not on home education, but on how best to craft a learning environment that suits my family.
Yet I hold that expertise lightly. Because it feels elusive at times, requiring me to be flexible and teachable, humble, willing and able to change and stretch and grow. I find myself constantly learning, adapting, changing as my children continue to move through different seasons and stages. I swing between teaching and being taught, the roles of student and teacher so inextricably intertwined as I work to cultivate the garden of my own soul as well as those of my children.
As I survey our beautiful garden from my kitchen window, I remind myself to take courage in how far we have come, instead of looking ahead to how far we’ve yet to go.
As I recollect the way our garden has changed since we first moved in, I comprehend how much as changed in our young family’s life over the same period of time.
As I watch my girls play in our garden, I remember how much I have learned and loved since I held my firstborn in my arms.
As I give thanks for a green space to nurture, enjoy, and call our own, I give thanks for the four precious little girl lives we’ve been entrusted with. And I pray that everything we are sowing and nurturing and investing into their hearts and lives will produce a harvest that is meaningful, significant, and lasting.
I have fallen in love with my garden. Because my garden reminds me of my girls. And, to quote one of my favourite storytellers, “This garden’s going to grow.”
You might also enjoy:
- The 12 books that made me a better parent
- Awakening Wonder – Sally Clarkson’s new book, available for pre-order. I’m on the launch team so I’ve had the privilege of a sneak peak read – I highly recommend this!