The Patient Gardener

No one ever told me how much stamina I’d need to be a good mom. A lot of parenting is, quite frankly, boring and sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated about conscientiously doing all the little things that end up bringing the big results.

Sticking to those tedious day-in, day-out routines can really start to drag you down. Who hasn’t wondered, at one point or another, whether letting things slide now and then really matters when teaching and reinforcing good habits, behaviors and manners? Half the time it seems like they they’re tuning us out, anyway. And letting it go, instead of getting into a tug-of war, might buy us a little much needed peace and quiet, right? In the short term, yes, and it’s tempting to do so, especially at the end of a long day.

But consistency and perseverance are two of the most important keys to success when raising kids or accomplishing anything that happens over time. There is a wonderful story about the life cycle of the Chinese bamboo tree that helps me remember that even when it seems like I’m just spinning my wheels, something powerful is actually happening.

Maybe it will help you, too…

If you want to grow bamboo, you must first plant the seed. And then, day after day, you must water it. Throughout the first year, despite all that tender, loving care, nothing happens. But you must keep at it, carefully watering and watching. Second year goes by and again, despite your efforts, no results. Third year comes and goes, and again, you water and watch but nothing happens. And then the fourth year passes by with no bamboo plant in sight. But then, suddenly, in the fifth year, within a period of six weeks, a 90 foot bamboo tree shoots out of the ground.

All that time when it seemed like nothing was being gained from the persistent routine of daily watering, a powerful root system, capable of supporting an awesome plant, was being developed underground, where nobody could see. Then, when the time was right, the plant appeared — strong, fully formed, and seemingly out of nowhere.

Be that patient gardener and keep teaching all the important things that you want your children to learn. Be consistent. Use loving kindness to get your message across and keep singing the same song, even if it seems to be falling on deaf ears. They are listening, and it is going in. Then, when you least expect it, you’ll start to see the fruits of your labor of love take hold in your own little sprouts.




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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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