I am not a gardener. I don’t yet know all the tricks of the trade or the terminology. I just moved to an entirely different climate zone than the one I’ve known all my life, and I planted before Mother’s Day this year. Gasp. Apparently that’s the Colorado equivalent of shooting a game of craps.
But I love flowers. Like, deep down in my bones and soul, love flowers. All of them. In big clusters, standing alone, drooping over, and standing tall. So, in October I planted some tulip bulbs to line my driveway. I’ve not had a lot of practice with bulbs in general. It feels counterintuitive to plant a thing deep down beneath the earth and then not know whether all that dirt under your fingernails was worth it until six months later. So, as I dug little holes and dropped each tiny, ugly bulb in, I whispered a lot of, “There you go little guy,” and, “Alright now, let’s get you all snuggled in there.” I smiled and sang while I did it, and my six-year-old daughter crouched beside me, helping me pat down the dirt and repeating after me, “Okay now, start growing little bulb.” It was a precious and wonderful moment that I’ll remember forever. It did not strike me as an extraordinary parenting moment until…
Spring arrived and those tulips popped up just like the little bag said they would. I was utterly ecstatic. I kept saying things like, “Have you SEEN our flowers?!” And the girls would follow suit by peaking out of their bedroom windows in the morning and running down to breakfast saying, “Mommy! Your flowers are opening up!” With such a sweepingly successful tulip experience, I figured I’d try my hand at some peonies. They don’t grow in the Deep South, where I’m originally from, but they are extraordinarily beautiful flowers. So I bought some, supplemented the soil, and planted them according to the directions. My three year old and I went out every day for two weeks just to give the seemingly empty bed the once over. I would run my hands over the top of the rough dirt, making sure there was still plenty of moisture beneath the surface, and then we’d go on with our day. “No flowers, yet,” I’d say. And my three year old would parrot back to me, “Nope. No flowers, yet.” Until one day, I ran my hand through the dirt and over three soft stalks. Excitedly, I cleared away the dirt just enough to find three pink stalks shooting up out of the ground. I actually squealed and jumped up and down for a moment, my three year old grinning as I acted like a silly, school girl bouncing around over some flower stalks.
It occurred to me that one of the very best things I can teach my girls is to do a thing that feeds their souls; to teach them that they do not have to make a career of it or make it count for grades or goals beyond taking grand pleasure in the gifts God has handed down. One of the very best things I can teach my girls is to let themselves run free with joy every once in a while, even if it means they look a little silly doing it. And the very best way I know to teach them those things is by inviting them to join me while I do them myself.
So, my tip for all of the other mama’s of girls is simple: Find a thing that feeds your soul, take great joy in doing it, and invite your girls to do it with you now and again. We want them to see and know that life is full of succulent treats for our souls, even – especially – on the days when it feels tired and bored or broken and bruised. We just might have to get a little dirt under our fingernails to find them.