Written by Doctor G

Pruning the spirit?

So I hesitate to use a gardening metaphor because I am a hopeless gardener. That said, it’s hard to avoid the idea that we nurture our children very much as a successful gardener grows flowers and plants and trees. So bear with me.

I have been told that the difference between a plant and a weed is the difference between a flower you want (and have some control over) and one you don’t. I’m sure this isn’t actually true, but it does have some practicality to it. While the same isn’t exactly true of kids, it is true of some of their personality traits.

My kids (and yours no doubt) each have a strong will. When they want something, they want it with every fiber of their being! The path each chooses to that destination depends on the personalities, situation and logistics involved, but the goal is straight-forward.

At 8:15pm last night my two year old wanted to entertain himself instead of sleeping. In his big boy bed (a recent development) after our bedtime ritual, his usual partner in crime (the 4yo brother in the next bed) succumbed to the devious enemy; sleep.

Left to his own devices the 2yo first, as evidenced by the massive collection there when I went to check on him, gathered every toy he could reach and brought them all into his toddler-sized bed. Finding no room left for himself he was sitting on the floor looking through a book. I encouraged him to return to bed after we cleared out the small yard sale he had gathered.

9:15pm Sitting downstairs at the kitchen table talking to a friend who had stopped by, I hear a strange rumbling sound. The washer tipped over again? No. I look up to see the 2yo roll by the doorway of the kitchen on his sit-n-ride toy. He didn’t even glance my way!

9:30 Back in bed, firm admonishment that more downstairs appearances will produce a return of the crib, he agrees to stay in bed and quiet.

9:45 All quiet, I return to do the covers re-tuck and forehead kiss for all the boys. 2yo? NOT in bed. Before true panic can set in, I hear “Hi,” quietly from the corner. He is sitting on the headboard of older brother’s toddler bed, feet resting comfortably on the shoulders of said sleeping 4yo, playing with older brother’s curly hair – a past time he does not get to indulge during the day. He looks at me and says, “Quiet. In bed.” I can’t disagree. And I can’t strangle him.

10:00 pm Finally quiet and ASLEEP. I sit on his bed texting my husband at work “No nap for him tomorrow!”

This kid has a strong spirit and a seemingly endless stream of ideas about how to reach his objectives. These are character traits I admire. As my husband and I often remark to each other about our kids, these traits will serve him very well as an adult should he be lucky enough to live that long!

So how do we shape our kids’ spirits without breaking them? Back to gardening. We prune them, right?

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “In Nature, most plants we grow are in splendid isolation, trying to spread unnaturally fast. Our job is to prevent certain shrubs and trees from outgrowing their position in a yard. Judicious reducing helps plants develop into sound structures without over-stressing their limbs. Also, maximum flowering and bountiful fruit are only possible by pruning.”

Makes sense to me. What do you think?

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