Monday, January 13, 2014

Tending Gardens

It seems strange to admit, but the word 'triplet' lost its wonder to me quite some time ago. Yes, it is interesting that a 5'2" woman carried three babies. The early years were exhausting and so much about my motherhood journey is an anomaly. I admit it IS still an entertaining word to drop when meeting people for the first time--but practically, at this age and stage, I simply have three kids who share a birthday.

Perhaps it is because they are fraternal. Or because they have simply grown and developed into such individuals...I really don't think I consider them a 'set' any more than any other parent thinks of their singleton children. Comparison, it seems, is inevitable. People frequently remark at how very different our kiddos are from one another. Frankly, as a sociologist at heart, their uniqueness amazes me too. I could talk for hours about nature vs. nurture.

I relish their individuality. Yet, as we move through various ages and stages I find myself somewhat confounded by how to remain 'consistent' in my discipline and expectations with children who are so varied. I wrestle with how to respond to the most mundane of things (delivering a forgotten backpack to school, ahem) and realizing I feel differently about the 'right' thing depending on which child the situation involves. It's not about fairness or favoritism, but about knowing each particular kid's struggles and strengths.

Recently God gave me a metaphor that has provided such freedom and perspective that I wanted to pass it along (and record it for my own memory).

Raising children is like tending a garden in which God planted the seeds. It was not my job to select what was planted. He did that. So I water, fertilize and weed. I monitor to insure pests aren't encroaching on the vulnerable crop...and then I watch to see what sprouts. On one row carrots. On another a tomato plant. On the third, watermelon!

The seeds were planted. The type was predetermined by the Landowner--and I have been entrusted with the responsibility of tending the harvest. There are basic things all types of seeds need--but there are many other nuances that are specific to the particular crop.
Here we need more of this.
And here, less of that.
Much intervention during this stage of growth.
Heavy pruning in this area.
Step back and letting this vine climb.

He brings the sun and the rain. I work with what He provides.

So it is with my children. Daily I find myself with three third graders who need different responses to the same situation. Math homework takes this one an hour and that one 10 minutes. That one can work upstairs unattended in their bedroom while this one must be right where I can prompt. My carrot needs encouragement to branch out and try new things, while my watermelon could use some reigning in!

Many parenting authors promote the necessity of consistency in parenting. Their bottom line is that children thrive when they know what to expect. Growing people need to know that there are parameters and some measure of predictability to their world. These guidelines give them a structure within which they can feel secure. I agree with all of that.

However, I fear that misinterpreting the concept of consistency can really trip us up as parents. When we find ourselves saying things like "I will never..." or "We will always..." I think we might miss many opportunities to stop and ask the Lord what HE would have for us in THIS situation with THIS particular child at THIS point in their development.

The consistency our children need from us is less about unbreakable rules and more about unconditional love, steadfast hearts that are seeking wisdom for the Lord, truth, a willingness to admit when we are wrong and a model of grace that can only be explained in Him.

It's an impossible task when we are relying on our own strength...but the One who planted these seeds wants to see them grow. They were His idea. He is available to us for guidance and strength. Our little crops will be all the better as a result!

And. personally, as another one of His seeds--I find great comfort in knowing He feels the same way about me. There is no 'one method' for any of His children--but to love, trust and obey. And that looks different on a carrot than a cucumber.


Meagan said...

Love this!!! Since I have a 2.5 year old and am getting ready to have twins I definitely needed this.

Margie Suh said...

I just happened on your blog tonight and I loved your metaphor. Even though mine are 7 years apart in age, it still resonates. Thank you for sharing.

sl said...

Loving your post. I only have 1 child. But i needed to read this. It hit close to home with me. AHDH, learning disabilities, anxiety and type 1 diabetes make life hard for her and her mommy.

Denise Ross said...

Right on the money. I was feeling 'wrong' by parenting slightly differently with each child but it's what's needed for them in my family