My mother always liked to have plants and flowers in the house. When I got to college, my mother would always want to give me a plant to decorate my dorm room. I would accept them, but with a bit of hesitation. Later, it was always with regret that I would bring them home either dead or nearly dying. My mom would then revive them over vacation and return them to me. Later, she started giving me plants that were known to thrive on neglect.
Months ago, when my husband suggested that we get half a dozen plants or so – I sighed. But he said he’d care for them, so I thought – why not? The kids and I left for a trip to visit relatives for a couple of months and we came back to find the plants half-dying. Dad said it was a metaphor for his emotional state while we were gone.
To my own surprise, I declared that I would be the one to revive them. For some reason, despite a history of failed plants, I felt some weird confidence that I could do this. Since then, for the past few months, I have been happy to see the progress I’d made since college. Whatever the reason, maybe experience or maybe the rigors of running a household and raising kids had trained me to have the relatively simple discipline to care for house plants.
I always – of course – knew that you need to water them regularly, but this time I could do it! And I was a bit proud to see that from interacting with these lovely little living things, I came to know each plant – its little idiosyncrasies and characteristics. I knew which plants needed more and which ones needed a little less watering. And that (familiar) yellow or brown coloring usually meant something was up – too much or too little water or sun. But this time around, I saw that these problems were easy to correct with even just a few seconds of attention, every single day.
There are two different schools of thought regarding the cultivation of plants: one school promotes “wild beauty”, and the other idealizes “cultivated beauty.” Simply put, one says no grooming, and the other demands it. I’ve become a proponent of the cultivation school because I can see that regular trimming, weeding and the like yields greater beauty than when left to its own devices.
All of the lessons I’ve learned through this experience seem to mirror much of what I’ve learned so far in the care and raising of my own family. I imagine that it is part of God’s wise and loving design that our interactions with His created world would teach us His ways and the principles by which the world operates, if only we were to pay attention.
Even while each plant needs essentially the same elements to grow, each one is also different. Likewise, through the years, I’ve seen how each child requires different levels and types of care. There are obvious signs to watch for when things are not quite right. Those signals have not always been physical but sometimes they manifest in things from their hair, nails, skin, etc. Grooming the plants gives me a gentle daily reminder to groom my own kids! And like the money tree plants that are carefully guided to bend and twist together into a pleasing design, so too can we become better and better through everyday habits and decisions.
Even though caring for plants in an already busy household might seem a luxury, caring for these plants has given me joy, satisfaction, and life lessons. Even when I make missteps – for instance, watering a plant a little too much – that becomes a lesson for me about “overwatering” my own children.
In our next admittedly ambitious step, we’ve decided to start a small garden on our veranda together as a family. We look forward to the lessons and (hopefully) strawberries to come.