As you read this title, I can imagine you are thinking to yourself, “How does a gardening and gluten-free food blog end up with thoughts on parenting?!” Well if you’re still reading, I’ll tell you why… because my family fuels much of what I do.
I didn’t really think much about growing food until I started growing children. Cooking was an afterthought (and what childless, urban dweller in the food-filled city of Vancouver really needs to cook, anyway). My health was something I would get to when I was older. And then, unexpectedly, four months after Mr. Green Thumb and I were wed, we found out we were going to be parents… and everything changed.
It wasn’t my health that I was eating for; it was my baby’s. And when our little sprout finally arrived, the terms ‘organic’, ‘farmer’s market’, ‘local’, ‘homemade’ and ‘homegrown’ had all become a regular part of our vocabulary (although it would take much longer to incorporate them into our every day lives). We started with pots of strawberries, cherry tomatoes and herbs on our itsy apartment balcony. And when we finally got a piece of dirt to call our own, Mr. Green Thumb and I continued to expand our garden and our family.
Four sprouts and a lot of weeding later, and I’ve grown… mostly older, but also a bit wiser. I certainly don’t have all the answers, nor am I even close to being a perfect mom. But for those of you interested, or for those who wish to commiserate, here are a few lessons I have learned on this journey of growing children. (There are probably one hundred things I could have written here! These were the three I narrowed it down to.)
My job as a parent is to raise responsible (empathetic, hard-working, thoughtful, creative, generous) adults. This is not the same thing as having perfect children. My children still have melt-downs. They still fight with each other. When they are hungry, or tired, or hungry and tired, they do and say things that are incredibly frustrating, even embarrassing. These moments can be incredibly stressful, and it is easy to react equally inappropriately. Each negative behavior can be seen as something to nit-pick about, but I’ve learned that it is also a great learning tool.
What better time to talk to a child about why we don’t scream in a store, or lie to the principal, or kick the dog, as when they have just experienced their own actions, the consequences of their actions, and their own feelings in response to the situation. Although it requires great patience and personal restraint, it is well worth the effort!. My role is to help train my kids so that they are prepared for adulthood. The mistakes we all make along the way are a large part of what help us achieve that.
I am nowhere near the person I thought I was. Before the sprouts came along, I was a very patient person. I had a list of things I would never do as a mom, and I had a lot of really great advice to give to any parent within earshot. But the reality was that I had never been stretched the way every parent is. Until parenthood, I had never tried to function in a state of continual sleep deprivation; I had never faced the badgering of several toddlers in high pitched voices, in chorus, repeating the same question “Why? Why? Why?” over and over again. No one can really understand what it’s like to be a parent until you walk the walk… in the middle of the night… wearing a sweater that has spit-up all over it.
Not only do my kiddos have lessons to learn on the journey towards adulthood, I have lessons to learn along the way as well. I am learning to discipline with patience and gentleness, instead of reacting in anger and frustration. I am learning to listen to my kids’ questions, and answer them as honestly (and age-appropriately) as possible. I am learning how to take an interest in who they are and what they do. As surprising as this may sound, it isn’t easy for me to play with my kids, and I am trying to give them moments of my undivided attention to just be with them, and do what they want to do. And maybe most importantly, I am learning to say, “I’m sorry” when I have made a mistake.
There are many different ways to love and nurture your kids. Hugs, encouragement, rewards, praise, gifts, moral support, a listening ear, playing together… there are hundreds of different ways that we as parents can show love to our little sprouts every single day. For me, cooking and caring for my family’s health is a significant way I express love to my family. This past Mother’s Day, my little man was asked how his mom showed him love, and he replied, “She cooks for me.” I was overjoyed that my kids also know that I am showing them love in this way.
Not only are there many ways I express my love; my kids each have their own way of feeling loved. My oldest sprout thrives on praise and encouragement. Telling him we love him elicits instant hugs and smiles. Our second needs lots of cuddles and back tickles. Saying good night wouldn’t be complete without laying down with him, even for just a minute. Our third loves to be included and spend time with her big brothers. She beams when they invite her to join in. Our littlest sprout constantly wants to be in my arms, and I’m sure that every time I scoop her up, she feels my love for her.
There are many other things I have learned on this wild and wonderful journey of parenting, and much I have yet to learn, but I will save that for another day. If you would like to hear from some authors on any of the topics I touched on, I would love to suggest a few books (that I have not been endorsed to write about), that I have found incredibly helpful.
Good and Angry, by Scott Turansky, and Joanne Miller
(Practical tools to discipline for character and not behavior modification)
Grace Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel
(How to parent out of love and grace instead of control and frustration)
The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman
(Five different ways children express and receive love)