I hope this doesn’t come across as just another mother bragging on her kid, but my child is a pretty big deal. My daughter is a dancer. She is a singer. She is a teacher AND a doctor. She is also an actress. She is a self proclaimed rockstar. She has accomplished this much because she is fearless. She is all these things and more because she is four.
A four year old is anything she sets her mind to. Her ambitions don’t require degrees and hours of study. The only thing that she needs is an imaginative spirit and a audacious heart. She is overflowing with both of these things as many children are. This same heart and spirit is the very thing that caused her to run over to my husband the other day and say “Daddy, I want to have a garden.”
My husband couldn’t help but smile as she stared up with her big brown eyes. Her head was tilted to the side as she pushed her wild curls out of her face. “Dad I want to grow flowers.” He glanced over at me and we shared a quick smile. He looked back at her and said “You do huh? Hmm, well let me think about it.” She smiled and shouted “ok!’ as she ran off to play.
Well if you know my husband and my daughter you know how this story ends. Both of my girls are the apple of their daddy’s eye. So although saying no was certainly an option, it was no surprise when the next day he took her out to a nursery to pick out some small plants. When she came back home she couldn’t WAIT to get her plants all watered and set up in the sun. Seeing her joy brought us joy.
I was sharing this experience later that day on the phone with my mom. We laughed together as I recounted her excitement. Then my mom said it. She said the thing that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. “Thats great! Just make sure she doesn’t overwater them.” I paused. “Overwater them?” My mom continued “Yes I was talking to someone really knowledgeable on plants the other day, and she was saying that the number one way people end up killing their plants is by overwatering them.”
And all the people reading this who have a green thumb, simultaneously shout “Well yeah.. duh!”
This may be common knowledge for some, but for me it was actually something I had never thought about. In fact, when I was a child, my family had a garden. I remember sitting in the dirt and placing seeds inside the fresh soil. I remember feeling the sun beat down on me as we removed weeds. And I distinctly remember being asked if I forgot to water the plants.
A wave of panic, would hit me for a second. “Oh my ghosh! Did I?” Most days that wave of panic quickly dissipated to relief when I remembered I had. But on occasion, that panic would turn to into a sick feeling in my stomach as I admitted to my parents I forgot. Then I would take a seat because I knew this was the point where I would get a lecture on the importance of keeping your plants watered. I knew that speech well. But I can’t think of a time my parents sat my down and warned me of the risks of overwatering the garden.
Since I graduated at the top of my class from the school of google search, I decided to get online and type in “overwatering plants” just to see what I could find. I began to read articles confirming what my mom had said. This was a common issue. The interesting thing though was that a plant that was getting way too much water often looks similar to a plant that wasn’t getting enough. They turn brown and begin to wilt in both cases. The main difference is a dry plant feels more rough and crispy. A overwatered plant is droopy and soft. Both scenarios resulted in the plant’s premature death.
In that moment I saw my life. I realized I would never be the girl who would be accused of neglecting my dreams. You won’t find my aspirations forgotten on a shelf, withering and collecting dust. I prefer to stay busy. I would rather keep adding things to the pot. Just a little here and a little more there. It gives me the illusion of making things happens. It makes me feel like I’m speeding up growth.
It never occurred to me that I could be at risk of drowning. I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m just obsessed with watering my dreams. Actually, this whole generation is. We are terrified of being stuck. We’re afraid that if we don’t abandon responsibility our dreams will wither and die. So we keep watering them. We keep jumping from job to city to relationship to business ideas to something else! Anything to make us feel like we are making the growth happen faster.
We are so determined to grow beautiful gardens that we’re completely unaware that our actions may be too much. We forget about the other steps of blooming. We skip over the part where we weed out bad habits and toxic people in our life that stunt growth. We forget about the part where we put our face to the sun and rest expectantly.
We must learn to trust the process. And we must stop pointing our finger at each other. The ones who go hard after their dreams, pity the ones who let their desires whither on the shelf. The ones who are overly cautious, mock those reckless dreamers. But without balance, both paths will lead to a premature death. Both extremes will leave you tired and unhappy.
In order to thrive we have to embrace the not so glamorous parts of the journey. We shouldn’t let the lack of instant growth discourage us from trying or cause us to race to make things happen. In fact, I think I’ll take a cue from my daughter.
Today she ran upstairs shouting “MOM! Hurry come look at my plants!” I raced down the steps to see what she was so excited about. Surely they didn’t sprout already. I see her standing over them beaming. I expected to see a hint of a sprout, but I saw nothing. I looked at her blankly for a minute and she smiled at me. “Mom, there are sprouts growing in that dirt! I just know it!”
I don’t think it will be necessary to for her to water the plants today. I suspect the tears that escaped my eyes and dripped off of my cheeks did a thorough enough job.