Reframing destruction: how I kept my cool after my son destroyed the garden

Guest post by Kathryn Albert
Photo by Clairspics, used under Creative Commons license.

I have planted a garden like I do every year, but this year is different. I recently found myself unemployed, and now will not be running home from work madly — cooking, cleaning, and doing the mom gig for an hour or two before bedtime — and then gardening. This year, I will be able to take care of my own garden whenever and however I want.

After a week free of the insurmountable obstacles of bureaucracy, I decided to begin in earnest. I spent the morning putting out my necessary networking feelers — letting people I’ve come to respect professionally know that I am now free, signing up for workshops and volunteer gigs, seeking guidance from various members of the community.

I was roused from my computer by the sound of wailing from the backyard.  This was unexpected as I had just told him not to do anything dangerous, and we reviewed the list of what “dangerous” entailed, such things as climbing broken ladders utilized to support the cucumbers as they start to trail.

Turns out, he’s still four.  

“FUCK,” I thought to myself (because it’s OK to swear when it’s self dialogue and only you can hear it). My first reaction was to react the way adults reacted when I was young — essentially a big WTF to the four-year-old for doing what four-year-olds do.

Instead, I ran outside, swiftly extracted him from the toppled ladder, and set him on his feet. I looked I look him over to make sure he is OK, and he knew — he wasn’t even gonna cry about it now. He knew he messed up.

I bent down, and said, “Are you alright?”

He looked at me and says, “…yeah”.  He’s embarrassed.

I said, “This is the ‘dangerous’ I was referencing in our conversation earlier”.

He said, “I know.”

I had no idea until a few hours later just how much Lincoln accomplished in my garden.  He dug a “river” in my freshly planted and turned over and carefully sawdusted strawberries — apparently, prospectors are moving in to mine for gold and they need a way to transport their goods.  The river goes neatly through my strawberries, and I’d say that this new development has wiped out a good part of this year’s crop.  Careless developing practices have also polluted my barbeque with bark dust.  Lots of it.

I proceeded to my gazebo, and I realized that the neatly stacked pile of garden markers are those very same garden markers that I so carefully placed next to all of my plants, to discern what was what til they actually fruited. Except, somehow, they’ve managed to make their way out of the garden and onto the patio table.

I can laugh about this now, and I kinda laughed about it earlier.  Because this is the nature of my life — and because I am good at fixing things when they break.  I have learned to expect broken and I still believe it is worth fixing.  I expect to repeat myself, I expect others to decide their own fate.

Today, the prospectors and the maniacal developer bringing them to town won.  But Lincoln will probably think twice before he climbs a rickety ladder again, and he understands the need to get back up and resolve not to make the same mistake again (or betray your embarrassment when you do).

Comments on Reframing destruction: how I kept my cool after my son destroyed the garden

  1. Love this. So sad your garden got more or less demolished, but so glad you found the humor in the situation and recognized the creativity in your child’s play. I hope I would handle this as well as you!

  2. Did he plant the garden with you? If not, you might want to consider letting him work with you the next time you plant so he can gain more of an understanding of what the garden is and how to respect it. It may also enstill in him a sense of pride when he sees that his hard work with mommy has produced crops that he can now pick and eat with you. A garden gives a wealth of opportunities for all sorts of child development. I say this from my own experience. I am a Preschool teacher and every year my class of 2-4 year olds discuss what we would like to grow, we make a map of where each plant will go, then we take the kids out to turn the soil, plant the seeds and starter plants and in the weeks to come the children tend to their garden. When the vegetables ripen, they pick them and deliver them to the school’s cook to utilize in the schools lunches. I’ve been doing it for five years and it has always been a success!

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