Aug 25, 2011
The truth is that I bought the sunflower seeds on a whim. I saw them and thought they'd be fun for the kids to watch grow. I planted them and left them alone. I let the sprinklers water them and planted them in the sun. When the bugs got really bad, I sprayed them a little bit when I was spraying the vegetables. That's it. And now I am deemed the Sunflower Queen.
So that started me thinking about how kids turn out. If I hover over them and try to control every little thing they do, will it really do any good? If I don't worry about the small stuff and they don't turn in their homework and don't develop excellent reading skills by the third grade will they really end up in prison by the age of 16? If I yell sometimes, make mistakes, and feed them candy after 9:00 at night will it really matter if it all ends up as a tell-all on a therapist's couch in the near future?
If I am the perfect mother who never raises her voice and enforces natural consequences and teaches my children to eat with their mouths closed and never make rude noises using their hands and armpits, am I really guaranteed that they will never fail? If I teach them to pray, study their scriptures, be kind to others, will they never experience disappointment and heartbreak?
Is there a chance that children come already encoded with who they are and just need fertile ground and an occasional watering? How does a mother judge success in mothering? With so many variables, how can a parent take credit for a child being a success story or blame for a child choosing to engage in illegal behavior? Can we really believe that we can control the way our child turns out? Can we really control every mitigating circumstance?
In the same garden as the sunflowers are my woeful cucumbers. I planted three plants. One came up. Same soil. Same sun. Same water. Wax beans were spotty but the good plants are great producers. Success or failure? What did I do to grow any of it?
My children have a home with parents that love them to pieces. Sometimes they know it, sometimes they don't. They have food to eat - both healthy and not so much. They also have parents who are imperfect (except for Mr. Taylor, that is) but who want them to be happy and strong, trying so hard to control the environment so that part will be nurtured and grow. Will it? I don't know. I have 18 short years to shove all my experience and wisdom into their little brains. Problem is, I'm still learning. They are my guinea pigs.
I'm just going to have to trust their encoding and variables I can't control. I'm going to have to trust their systems are wired to adapt and learn. Like the sunflowers, they will turn their faces to the Sun for nourishment and healing.
I also hope they are forgiving and see good intention.
*This post originally published in 2009. I have not grown sunflowers since. If you need squash or cucumbers, however, please feel free to leave your car unlocked on Sunday.*