Gardening with Children

Doesn’t that title sound sweet? I don’t know about you but visions of Tasha Tudor’s and Joan Walsh Anglund’s little drawings pop up. Little girls in soft smocked dresses, brimmed hats and little wellies are carrying baskets, wielding rakes and digging in pretty, deep flower borders. Boys that look like Christopher Robin in little shorts and blond hair falling over their eyes are pulling a wagon with potted plants ready to be planted. I also am IN LOVE with all the cute gardening stuff I see at Target for children! The cutest little boots, gloves, hats, spades, etc. Ladybugs, frogs, butterflies………OMG….hold that dream!! Have you noticed they don’t come larger than a size 2 or maybe 4? Suspicious? That’s because once your child passes 5 gardening becomes something ugly and dark. Here’s how it happens

here……you may want to sit down…..and get a drink…….stop and smell the roses and all that….

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Friday it was beautiful here…..about 90 but low humidity and a nice breeze. I was busy all  day with other things but in the early evening, I looked around the yard and saw weeds growing faster than the plants, bushes in desperate need of pruning, flowerpots on the front steps with only dead sticks in them, overgrown perrenials that should have been divided in the Spring, garden furniture that needed scrubbing, a new bed that should be started near the boxwood, and on and on.

I’m no dummy and I realized quickly that I couldn’t do it all myself while at the same time keeping up with grocery shopping, vacuuming, dusting, dishwashing, mopping, laundry, trips to the beach/doctor/waterpark/band camp…..etc……I pondered my options….


Option One: Husband My hubby is a great PROJECT person. He loves PROJECTS. The big letters are to clue you into his preference for BIG PROJECTS. He’ll build me an arbor, garden picket fences, birdhouses (remember those…..HOW CUTE) and I love him for it….believe me, he is a source of envy to all my friends and he’s MINE, ALL MINE. But, he is not a gardener and hates doing it. If I plan ahead and have all my little chores lined up so he doesn’t have a minute between them and he can plow through them in a morning…..he’s your guy….otherwise, forget it. But wait! I  suddenly realize that I have multiple resources and they are all inside the house lying around in front of the TV soaking up air conditioning and food!

Yes dear reader, you guessed it….


Option Two: CHILDREN….the 2011 answer to indentured servitude! YES….HALLLELUJAH!!

(Right now you should hear that music from Jaws playing quietly in the background… know…impending doom..)

It’s important to realize that over the past three years with the Mongolian Horde, we have been working steadily on crazy ideas like: good manners, honesty, perseverence, integrity, work ethic,  committment, etc. Success is sporadic but hope is eternal. My personal motto is : Semper Gumby, without which I would have already received a Merit Award in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Saturday morning arrives. The weather is supposed to be just as nice as Friday and I’m ready. I’ve spent several hours already deciding exactly who will do what. This is something that might have escaped you but it is CRUCIAL that the jobs I give out are perceived as FAIR. Plus no child can be within earshot of another child because the steady comments about what is NOT FAIR in the balance of work is capable of spinning the entire Mongolian Horde into a fit of complaining (sort of the ‘he’s touching me’ syndrome, but more fun).

OK, so the plan is made and I fortify myself with several mugs of coffee….it’s important to keep my wits about me because the arguments they offer can be quite elaborate and my job is to remember EXACTLY who did what and when they did it so I can be sure that everything is absolutely FAIR.

Upstairs most of them are still in their pajamas (it’s 11:30 am) except for the middle school boy who appears to have slept in his clothes. When I mention that, he looks down at himself in surprise and says, “Oh”. He’s going to get dirty anyway so I just move on. I ask them to turn the TV off because we have some work to do. The 9yr old with the broken arm immediately starts to whine and lifts his arm to say “but”…..this is a CRUCIAL moment…..the 15yr old girl stares at me with narrowed eyes……will I be FAIR?? I answer” don’t worry, I’ll find something for you to do with one hand” (score 1: Mom). “We’ll go outside in 1/2 hour….that’s 12:00” (you need to say all this to avoid an UNFAIR scream because someone didn’t look at the clock and HOW ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHEN A HALF-HOUR HAS PASSED…?).

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Now we’re outside. Faces are sullen, but, so far, no fighting. The lame kid is deadheading the Shasta daisies. The 15 yr old is cutting up the hydrangea stems I’m pruning and the middle school boy is weeding the least weedy flower bed which is also the farthest away from the others….no mean feat, let me say.

I’m bouncing around putting the lame kid back to work when he tells me he’s finished three times, keeping the middle school kid from sitting on top of the plants because it’s too hard to bend over or crouch when weeding, and ignoring the 15 yr old who is staring at her fingertips and praying for an incapacitating blister to form. Finally, the little one is actually done deadheading. He comes around to the back and says “I’m done”. The 15 yr old and the middle schooler both stop work immediately (the better to hear me) and move closer in anticipation of an UNFAIR moment. I say “that’s great….now you can carry some bricks for me”… (score 2: Mom)

Fast forward one hour. The 15 yr old is suddenly and completely incapacitated by blisters on her hand. The middle schooler is lying on his side on top of my sedum and plucking weeds weakly (leaving the roots of course). The little guy is heroically carrying bricks one by one, sometimes balancing them on his cast, all the way down the yard so I can use them in what I’m doing……not a complaint. He’s so cute….I wonder briefly if I could jam his feet into those cute froggie wellies at Target. 

After a major meltdown related to her health crisis, the 15 yr old agrees to finish her job on Sunday after she ‘heals’ up a bit. The middle schooler finally makes it through the final bit of weeds and my new bed is started with newspapers and bricks……..I’m exhausted mentally and I am happy to say “Thanks everyone, great job, go get a shower…..bye”.

Now I can work alone and in peace…. And that, dear friends, is why they only make cute gardening stuff up to size 4.

Like for this little guy… grandson who loves to “help” his Mimi……sigh…..

teacher Hunter

And now….something that is MUCH more enjoyable…. Here is the crape myrtle in full bloom….so pretty:

A view through the arbor to the potting shed

A pretty hydrangea….. see more HERE

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