Being the Gardener of our Children’s Hearts.
The gardener does not make the plants grow,
we just provide optimal conditions.
-Ken Robinson from Notebooking with Friends-
As mothers we hear a lot of talk about providing a rich environment for our children.
One which is generously stimulating for young and pliable minds in the form of unrestricted activities, at home and after school.
We should allow our children to be involved in as many different forms of leisure that they choose.
Even if it stretches us financially and emotionally.
Who wants a child that has nothing to do?
What would they find to occupy themselves with?
We also are told to not let our children wait – for anything.
If they are hungry – we are to feed them, instantly.
It seems that we are in a society where children are unable to do anything without having snacks as a natural addition to their every activity.
I’m all for not starving my children!
However I also don’t want to be constantly feeding them throughout the day.
I never did that when they were babies being breastfed and I don’t do it now.
And guess what? They don’t lack in nutrition of any form.
Who knew this was possible?
Delayed gratification isn’t really something we talk about amongst the parenting circles and forums.
In fact, it’s the opposite. We are trained to be at our child’s beck and call.
I have six children. Imagine if I was at the mercy of their desires 24/7? I wouldn’t be alive today.
At the very least, I wouldn’t be functioning at all well as a mother and wife.
We are human beings, not robots to automatically serve our children constantly.
No wonder mothers can feel so lost and exhausted throughout parenthood.
I don’t think these conditions mean we should give in to our child’s every whim and desire.
That’s not how the world works and we aren’t doing our children any favours if we create a synthetic environment where they are the kings and queens.
What a terrible disappointment when they realise this isn’t true.
What happens when they hear the word ‘no?’
Sometimes providing optimal conditions looks like a day of nothing planned.
Of being bored. As a society, we don’t like to let our kids be bored anymore.
It’s such a shame because abundant and imaginative play is born from moments of emptiness.
There really isn’t any point in constantly purchasing colouring books, reading books, craft kits etc, if our children never have the actual time to sit.
Dwell in their own space. To think without any distractions.
Alone, without an adult breathing down their necks or a structured activity to constantly stimulate them.
Our empty days look like setting up outdoor kitchens, stirring mud into pies, laying on the trampoline, staring at the sky and climbing trees.
It’s picking flowers and mixing their colourful leaves to make ‘perfume’ – I remember doing that as a kid. It was wonderful!
The girl’s writing a story in lavish detail and being lost in the wonder of it all.
That imaginary life is so enchanting!
In this photo, the children wanted to make a flower cake that was actually edible and not full of squishy mud and worms!
This is the result.
A light and buttery sponge cake, that they made on their own, scouring my old recipe books for a ‘simple butter cake’.
My intervention was to show them where my cake books lived.
Water icing was poured over the fresh cake. As well as a variety of summer flowers picked from the garden.
Plus the bugs. There were bugs swimming in the icing.
Happiness, I tell you, comes in all forms, including eating fresh cake with bugs.
But in all seriousness (even though the bug cake was a reality and did get eaten – and only bugs died in the process), if there is one thing I wish for my children, (besides the obvious ones of being happy and healthy), it’s that they have a magical childhood.
Where their free spirits are given space to roam and wander.
And their environment is truly bountiful and rich in learning, through play and imagination.
Without harsh restrictions but still within an ordered world.
That’s my dream.
But are they happy you may ask?
Well, yes, they are. Abundantly so.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how exquisitely nourishing stepping off that roller-coaster has been for us.
For my heart and my family’s.
A rich life that is free and unencumbered is treasure indeed.