Gardening is an exercise in patience.
If we ever wonder why the scriptures are rife with examples of vineyards, seeds, sowing, reaping and harvesting, I think we only need to come back to this.
And also this: the things worthwhile in life, like growing personal faith, nurturing relationships, connecting with the Divine and raising a family, all take a great deal of patience, season upon season of patience.
I garden to learn this patience.
Every time I study a packet of seeds, I am tortured by the “days to harvest.” Sixty-two days for garden-fresh tomatoes seems like a veritable lifetime, an entire summer of pool parties, lemonade stands and cross-country road trips. I always wonder if my little plants, and I, will survive through it all.
It’s how I felt in the very early stages of motherhood, when I had a farm-sized vision of the family I wanted to create. I knew I wanted to raise bookish children who loved music, learning, hard work, nature and the Lord.
Then I had a million little boys who wanted nothing more than to clobber each other in the back seat of the minivan. There were days, no years, when I thought we’d have a Cain and Abel story in our future. There were times when my kids wailed through an entire morning of Saturday chores and got pulled out of Sacrament meeting by their heels. Their creativity expressed itself through shattered Christmas ornaments and live wires in the electric socket.
I was a young, impetuous mother. The first time I sat down to teach my oldest son to read, I wasn’t sure we’d make it off the couch alive. Now this same son gets in trouble in school because — he reads too much.
Through all those knock-‘em’-dead years, I tried to breathe deep and stick with the long-term vision. I tried to keep our home fertile with learning and music. I tried to water with love and patience. (Though once, in a moment of impatience, I watered my son’s head with a pitcher of ice water.)
We’re in a different phase now. My husband and I remark often that it’s the Golden Age of parenting: that sweet spot with no babies and no teenagers. Our kids are independent but without attitude. They all speak in full sentences and cook their own scrambled eggs. We are still rock stars to them. Playing with Mom and Dad, or venturing on a special outing is highly coveted. And — we know it won’t last.
But the seeds I planted long ago, seeds of learning and spirituality, are beginning to bear fruit.
Don’t get me wrong. Getting my kids to do chores is still like wrestling alligators. We could fill a small lake with the tears shed over music practice. Creativity usually means scraps of paper and pillow forts all over my house. Our miniature Stripling Warriors could double as a circus act.
But I’m glad I stuck with the long-term vision. When you become a parent, you’re in it for the long haul. The reward for all of it seems 62 years away. But I know it will be worth it. I tell myself this now, on the cusp of having teenagers, so that I can remember to buckle in for the next wild ride.
The other day I spent five hours planting seeds. Five hours under the sun, spreading compost, gridding out the vegetable rows, studying seeds packets and guiding children through tomato cages, squash hills and pea poles.
At the end of the five hours I brushed off my sunburned arms and stood back to admire my work. What I saw were four garden beds filled with dirt. After all that time, you couldn’t tell I’d done a lick of work.
But I’ve traveled this path before. I nodded in understanding and turned to go inside.
“They will grow,” I told myself. “They will grow.”