During the day today, somewhere between shovel and saw, it occurred to me that this process is much like raising children. I had a conversation with a friend this week about the effort involved in turning our children into socially acceptable human beings. I love conversations like that one, because they motivate me to revisit my own beliefs and check how I am implementing them in my own life. After our talk, this scripture came to me:
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15 NIV
There are a couple of things that might be lost in translation here - first of all, the word "folly" in this instance does not mean fun, or imaginative, or anything we might use it for today. Here it means something more like foolishness, slothfulness, vanity, wastefulness. One need only read the book of Proverbs a bit to understand the meaning. Second, "rod of discipline" does not mean a tool to beat or spank a child, but more like a shepherd's staff, used to nudge a lamb back on the right path to keep it from danger.
So how are yard work and child rearing anything alike? Our mission here has been to keep the wilderness out of what we call our yard. Much like keeping "folly" out of the heart of your child. If we leave children to their own devices and do not rein them in for their own good, we do them no favor; in my book, that is neglect.
One thing we must do in both cases is choose our battles wisely. It is futile, to me, to try and keep every single kind of weed out of my yard; I draw the line at poison oak. I am on a mission to get rid of it here. Likewise, a child who hears "no" all day, every day, will not respond when it really matters. And if you choose your "no" times carefully, you will be in a better position to make each one really mean "no".
Another part of choosing battles is knowing which things look innocent at the beginning, but will become a problem later. I see a lot of unfamiliar wildflowers here, and often leave them, even in my garden, just because I like them. But later, when they go to seed, they tend to take over. Much like those things your children do that are so cute to begin with, but one day you may wish you had nipped in the bud.
Besides choosing battles, you have to plant good things. I planted some flowers around my little garden to attract beneficial insects, and within 20 minutes there were butterflies there. We also planted some Zoysia grass recently because of its resilience and its ability to crowd out weeds. Similarly, I've found that if I catch my girls doing good and give them appropriate praise for it, that goes a lot farther than anything negative I might say to them.
If you need a place to start with your children, I would highly recommend:
The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg Harris
Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert J. MacKenzie