About this time every year I get that itch. I start poring over mail-order catalogs, and the garden center at Lowe’s becomes a near occasion to sin. I love digging and planting, watching shoots spring up and morph into flowers and fruit-bearing plants.
Last spring, though, I was completely overwhelmed by caring for a three-month-old and his three older siblings. I wrote off gardening altogether in 2012–and it was just as well, since we ended up in the worst drought in fifty years.
But this year, I think it’s time to introduce my children to the garden. Here are ten reasons why:
- Work ethic. When I was a kid, we had a huge garden, and we froze or canned most of our own vegetables. I loathed the two hours a day I was required to spend in the garden on summer mornings, but it’s borne much fruit in adulthood.
- Structure. Whenever the kids are home the “I’m bored” mantra makes its appearance. In my house they start whining for a movie early in the day. But if we put a structure in place, it makes the days smoother.
- Sense of accomplishment. Seeing the result of our own efforts is a lesson kids need.
- Better food. Anything we grow for our own consumption is a known quantity. We’ll know what chemicals we are (or aren’t) exposing ourselves to.
- They need it. The book Last Child in the Woods made it ponderously, overwhelmingly, beyond-argument clear that we are wired to be out in creation, physically in contact with the world, not tied to smart phones and computers and game consoles. Our bodies, our minds and our emotions work better when we interact with nature.
- Appreciation for beauty. It’s easy not to notice the beauty lying all around. Nothing gets you paying attention more than being involved yourself.
- Learn to recognize God’s hand at work in creation. ‘Nuff said.
- Stewardship of Creation. “Green” is a big topic these days, but it’s not just a secular issue. Part of our call as Christians is to be stewards of the earth. If our children invest themselves in the natural world, they’re more likely to realize they have a responsibility to it that goes beyond the garden and beyond childhood, from driving habits to consumption habits.
- Learning to partner with God in bringing life into the world. You can’t just throw seeds anywhere; you have to plant judiciously: a dogwood will scald in full sun and a rose won’t bloom at all in the shade. If we’re to be successful, we have to work with what God put in place. This has implications for teaching about the way we “plant” life in adulthood, too.
- I need to see the world through my children’s eyes. I see the world differently when I experience it as they do: something new, and exciting, and holy.
What lessons have you or your kids learned by digging down and getting your hands dirty?
Kathleen writes at her personal blog, So Much To Say, So Little Time, about life at the intersection of faith, family and the written word. She is convinced that every issue touches every other, and that faith must be at the heart of them all.
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