Just before the end of last year, we removed every sign of vegetation from our front garden. We didn’t do this because we hate trees, we did it because what had been planted by the previous owners was wholly unsuitable for the area and the proximity to the house. So, for months, we have had a bare and barren front garden while we had stumps ground and fertilised the soil to ensure good growth of the plants we intended to fill it with.
We bought quite a few of these native Lillypillies (above), which all came tied to stakes. We had a brief discussion on whether or not to remove the stakes once the trees were planted, as the stakes aren’t exactly pretty. We decided it would be best to leave them in. Frankly, we need all the help we can get when growing plants, and keeping the stakes in will ensure, we hope, that they grow straight and also that they have some support while getting firmly established root-wise.
I was talking to a dear friend recently about raising kids and one of the things we touched on was the lack of discipline in parenting these days. She told me what her father had always said in regards to raising children. He said that they were like plants and needed to be tied to a stake in order to grow straight and to provide them with support until they were strong enough to stand on their own.
What a wise man. And how apt given the discussion I had just had with my fellow gardening husband.
It’s true. Children need that support and structure to grow on while they are young. They need the restraints of those ties to keep them growing the right way. You’ll notice though, that the ties around the plants stem aren’t tight; there is plenty of room for growth and movement.
My father-in-law, who was an expert tomato grower and a big believer in staking fledgling tomato plants, always cautioned me against tying the plant too tightly to the stake when I started growing my own. “You must leave room for growth and not strangle the plant” he would say. As with children, too much discipline will stifle their growth, limit their capacity to bear fruit and flowers and not lead to maturity. Once again in life, we find that balance is the key.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that the pendulum has swung too far and children are barely disciplined (don’t even get me started on all the pop-psychology of child-raising these days). They are left, untethered, to grow in whichever way they can, devoid of guidance and asked to weather the storms and lashing rain with nothing to provide support whatsoever. It seems to me, current parenting trends focus far too much on how the child ‘feels’ and not enough on preparing them for the realities of the world they are living in, which are realities regardless of how they ‘feel’ about them.
Given some direction and support, children, just like our Lillypillies, will come to a time when they will be able to stand on their own, once they are firmly rooted and their core is strong and straight. Then, the stake can be removed, the ties loosened and the child, who by now is not a child any longer, can bloom and fruit all the more because of it’s steady start and deep roots.
What you will have is a person who not only can withstand all life throws at them but who can thrive in spite of it all. To not just survive but to thrive is proper living. And, really, isn’t that what we want for our kids?