Friday, April 17, 2015

Nurture and Nature: Gardening with Kids

I was never big on gardening in the past. I know a lot of people who really enjoy discussing various species of plants, the frost and rain forecast and what new plant to put in the garden, but that was never me. I didn't know much about planting (and still don't) but a few years ago Aiden asked to start a vegetable garden so we went ahead and bought some seeds. We dug up a section of an existing flowerbed (that was sorely ignored) and put in some beans, carrots and cucumbers. To my surprise we ended the summer with a garden full of vegetables, despite my haphazard care, and it was something we decided to do each year after. My own attention on the garden waxed and waned as I went through two pregnancies and cared for babies but Aiden still enjoyed it each year and my husband, Sean, soon developed an interest in keeping the garden going.

This interest grew exponentially this past winter when my husband made the decision to purchase some fruit trees to replace other trees we had taken down. It sounded wonderful to me, especially the part where he decided it would be a project for he and Aiden. 

Sean, Aiden and a friend spent last weekend digging holes, mixing compost and soil, planting and back filling, and now there are four new trees around here. Sean and Aiden have already been looking up natural fertilizers, how to protect the tiny trunks and different methods for pruning the growing branches.


What went from a plan to grow trees for fruit is starting to seem like a much larger lesson. Gardening is great to teach kids about caring for the earth, eating healthy, whole foods and spending time in nature, but the one word that is resonating as I watch my husband and son water and check each tree is nurture.  

Our society provides plenty of opportunities to teach girls how to nurture: we have baby dolls and kitchen sets galore and happily teach them to be little mommies. What about the boys? We have a kitchen set and baby dolls and while all three kids have played with them, his interest in those things has pretty much disappeared as he's gotten older. How do you keep helping boys to nurture, care and protect? Gardening has become the perfect example and a way to keep that discussion going.


He's outside sweating, dragging a heavy shovel and sinking into the soft, deep soil. It seems like your stereotypical "man's work". But he and Sean are also tenderly examining buds, figuring out where to make cuts that won't hurt but instead help it flourish. They're looking for a way to wrap guards around the base of each plant to keep them safe from hungry animals and errant lawn toys. Soon Aiden will see that after all the heavy digging and the careful pruning and watering we will have strong trees that give sweet apples in years to come. Aiden sees his daddy, a big strong man he thinks can do almost anything, showing him how to be gentle, how to carefully help something small and defenseless grow.

Out there in the garden, with dirty, callused hands and sore muscles, he's learning that anytime you put in hard work, gentleness and care, whether it be with a child, a partner or even a little sprig of a tree, something beautiful can grow. 

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