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Wednesday 5 December 2018

Lessons from gardening

I sit twiddling my thumbs in the hope that inspiration will strike and make me start typing furiously on my brilliant piece. The one that seemed to flow quite effortlessly in the wee morning hours at dreamland. Sigh, doesn’t seem likely today!

I am pottering around my not-so-flourishing balcony garden, wondering for the nth time why these potted residents of my home cannot put on a better show. All they have to do is sport green leaves and look sprightly, huh? It’s not as if I am aspiring to see a great bloomin’ flower garden, am I? Stopped planting species that were supposed to yield anything more than just leaves a long time ago…errm…after laying to earth several failed experiments.

I fondly pet the money plant, spraying its leaves with water mist to keep them clean and shiny. This one is my sole salvation, the one that has thrived even under negligence when I was away on vacation. I scorn disdainfully at the stump of a rose plant that I had very optimistically picked up when the nursery guy told me that this particular variety would produce perennial blooms no matter what!
As I put away yet another shriveled plant to be disposed of, I contemplate whether it is just fool-hardiness to continue on this futile path of becoming the proud owner of decent-looking greenery!
It suddenly occurred to me that I could draw a few parallels between my gardening experiences and parenting.
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Most family, friends, veteran gardeners and even total strangers have shared various tips and tricks to get the best out of my pet vegetation nook.
The crux of all that collective wisdom is, plants need your time, attention and love, besides of course the basic requirements of sunlight, water and soil.
Boy, isn’t that just what your kids require? Of course, kids don’t need soil, well, maybe some do, but most are in better health when fed human food.
Children thrive better when you give them your time and attention and even more so when you do it lovingly.

The thrill of watching a tiny seed germinate and grow day by day is no less than watching your own little baby grow.

I recollect that the rose plant, the pansy and peony, the daisy and chrysanthemum, yes all those and many more that I tried to rear, got my time and attention too.
But did I love them? I would have, if they’d given me a chance to, by displaying at least the slightest resilience to morbidity or even the smallest inclination of a bud!

As parents, are we doing the same? By self-righteously devoting our time, efforts and money on our offspring, are we holding back on the love our children need, simply because we have certain expectations from them? Expectations that need to be met with before the love is given. Is life any fun when one has to walk it through with the burden of expectations? 

I have this holy basil shrub, which I religiously (pun intended) try to keep reviving, replacing, with little success. I was informed that I am simply killing the plant with over-watering.
Sometimes the best of intentions are overdone, too much of a good thing.
Parenting can sometimes be overwhelming. Are we doing too less, are we being less attentive, is my child under-nourished, does my child have the right friends, is my child having enough physical activity, will he be okay alone at the picnic….you get me?
We are beating ourselves up, over-indulging the child, becoming over-sensitive to his needs and generally leaving no room for the child’s self-development, evolution, curiosity and independence.
Sometimes it pays to be a little less attentive. Let them fall down, pick themselves up and develop a thick skin. Resilience is a trait that will hold them in good stead life-long.

Along my gardening journey, I learned some tips on, "How not to kill your plants",
Water: less is more
Sunlight: the more the merrier
Soil: regularly turned over and topped up with natural nutrients
Well, there was a lot more but these are all I remember off the top.

So armed with even this much, I should be good to go, theoretically speaking. Then how come I am still burying the ill-fated remains of the coriander plant?

When it comes to parenting, most new parents today come armed with enough and more knowledge handed down from older generations and the all-pervasive google searches, parenting communities etc.
But there is finally no tried and tested common success formula for bringing up your child to be the all-rounder, physically fit, mentally strong kid you would like him to be.

Then it came to me, something my mom said to me, nurturing is something that is instinctive to every parent. Every child is unique with his/her own signs of developmental milestones. An observant and intuitive parent will be able to ascertain the child’s needs based on his responses and behavior and thereby decide when to indulge, stay put or start worrying.
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Sometimes we parents are at our wits' end trying to figure out whether we are doing right by our children. Maybe they are just like the money-plant that requires little or no attention to thrive. Or they are like the special bonsai plant that requires all your focus. 
Whatever kind they may be, one rule still holds true. Once you are past the fragile times and they have their roots firmly planted, they will do alright. Even uprooting and replanting shouldn't bother them too much if you got the initial growing times right! 
As for you now, you can only advise them to either sway to the rhythm of wind or stand strong against a storm. You can worry, you can fret or simply just pray that they will do well, no matter what.

I realize, I need to watch over my green babies and learn what keeps them fresh and healthy, what makes them droopy or simply shrivel up.
That makes me think, maybe that coriander plant just couldn’t take too much of sun or wait a minute, were those white spots on the leaves, an infestation? Ah, yes, now that I think of it, it probably was! Time to put that big bottle of organic neem spray to work.

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