Spring has a way of inviting us to take stock of what we have, who we are, and who we want to be, doesn’t it?
All this yard work got me thinking about how work in my yard was a little like work in my family.
My parenting has gotten a little over run as of late, just like the choking weeds in the yard. I figure that since my eldest has just gotten married and moved on to her own house, it might be time spring clean my family traditions, patterns, and habits. Inspired by the work happening in the yard, I took a moment to direct my attention on all that I do with those who were once the little ones whose footsteps and fingerprints filled the space of my home, but who have grown and now need some adjusting to make it through to the next season.
My first step was to open my parenting tool shed (for the gardening = i.e. the garage, yard, and even under the deck) and assess the contends contents. Can I find all my tools? Have I been using broken tools? Have I found that tucked amongst the helpful tools, there are traces of philosophies that are irrelevant, unhealthy, and just plain don’t work?
The hardest part in the garden is finding where all the tools have been carted too. I don’t really have a “system” for gardening tools, thus much of my time was spent looking for something that worked. Parenting is often the same.
When my oldest was a new baby, I tried very hard to follow some parenting advice passed on to me by those I love and trust. It wasn’t a good fit for her or for me, yet I found that even after I had discovered and began practicing a different parenting philosophy, the words from that first parenting guide played over and over in my head like a broken record, convincing me I was making poor decisions… even a bad parent. Thankfully, she turned out mostly responsible and now is in the process of making her own family. But what worked for her isn’t really what works for the next kid, or the next kid, or the next kid, or even the last kid. They are all different and even I have changed.
In my garden I like specific tools: my garden gloves, pruners, my claw and the hula hoe. I have gotten rid of most of the other tools I never use. In parenting I have my favorites too. I have discovered that many of us hang on to the cumbersome tools passed on to us, not because they are helpful or useful, but because we don’t know what else to do. Time to go ahead and toss them in the trash. Then I will be ready to fill my parenting tool shed with the useful and the beneficial tools that will grant me success.
If you’ve ever grown any kind of plant, you know that pruning is an important part of encouraging new growth. Yesterday we pruned the hedge and the apple tree. It’s a wonderful mystery of the natural world that cutting off dead weight allows a plant to flourish. Sometimes as parents, we are distracted or busy or just plain exhausted, and we don’t realize that we’re allowing our kids to hang on to some things that needs to be pruned.
I’m working up the courage to exercise some “pruning” of TV programs, phrases, and even foods that my kids enjoy because I believe it is stunting their growth. But it will take courage. On the surface, pruning looks painful or negative, but the truth is that cutting away that which is unwanted is necessary for spurring on beautiful new growth. Sure wish teenagers could see the benefits of pruning dead weight to help them flourish in their daily routines and in life.
The Savior share a parable or two about preparing the soil for seeds. Spring is a wonderful time to consider how we are tilling the soil. Ground that has been sitting dormant needs to be tilled up so that it’s ready to receive new life.
I wonder what areas my family needs to be ready to grow in. Perhaps new growth is waiting to happen socially, academically, in a sport or talent, or spiritually. Sure glad we just had Conference to help guide in preparing the soil. Perhaps we will work on service.
Conference also reminded me of the wisdom to prepare for the storms to come. Spring weather is so unpredictable. I never know what kind of storm is coming. But I’d say the entire world is facing unpredictable storms… some natural and some man made. I prepare my yard by putting tools away, by installing proper drainage, or by securing plants and fixtures so they will be able to withstand the force of the wind and rain.
As the parent of three teens and an 8 year old, I often want to yell, “Board up the windows, there’s a hurricane coming!” I’m sure there is someone out there that can relate! What I need is a safety plan. As a parent I can prepare for the temporary storms that each age and stage of childhood brings.
So far, I have found that my best “safety plan” comes with FHE, family and personal scripture study and prayer, and quality time spent together building relationships. Nothing lasts forever. I had better make it count.
I prepare myself by parenting in the right mindset(best found in my personal relationship with God) — that rocky behavior stems from turbulent feelings from within. When I am prepared mentally for this as a parent, it makes managing the hard phases a little easier.
Finally, when we’ve removed all that old debris, cut off dead growth, and spent time working over the soil and recovering from storms, we get to celebrate and enjoy by sprucing things up. We recently celebrated the union of Kimber and Ray. I know there will be other celebrations in the future. But I need to find ways to celebrate every day. How about finding a way to say “yes” more often than “no”? Is there something I’ve been putting off doing as a family? Why not do it now?
I’m sure I could also relate “spring cleaning the yard” to my journey to better health… throw out the exercise tools that I don’t use, clean up my diet, prune out the eating habits that are weighing my down, prepare better for stormy weather by planning ahead what to do or what to say when confronted with an excuse to not exercise or with a tasty treat that really won’t help me toward my goal. However, today I decided to focus on the one thing that is both my reason for trying to be healthy and my reason for falling off my wagon… family matters. And it DOES MATTER.
Just as I have discovered in simplifying my house and my yard, there is so much freedom on the other side of the hard work of spring cleaning! And there is no question that a good spring clean involves lots of labor, but oh, how wonderful the rewards. ( not including the sore muscles and tired knees. Hey! Is that what is meant in the scriptures about helping the feeble knees and lifting the hands that hang down? I’m so using that on my kids this week!)
For now, it’s time to fill my lungs with a deep breath of joy and gratitude. The work I am doing is useful and beautiful, indeed.