What Weeding Taught Me About Parenting

I love to weed. 

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

There’s just something about weeding that I find satisfying. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment. Maybe it’s playing in the dirt. Maybe it’s being in the midst of God’s creation. Maybe it’s the beautiful flowers, landscaping, and garden produce I get to enjoy when I keep things weeded.

Weeding provides me an incredible quiet time with the Lord. Talking. Listening. Thinking. Praying.

Last week God really spoke to me during my weeding on three different topics. He used my weeding to help me better understand parenting, taking care of my health, and the condition of my heart. Three diverse topics, but all illustrated well in weeding. So over the next few weeks I’m going to share my discoveries! I’ll start today with parenting.

One of my favorite spots for me to enjoy our flowers and garden plants is sitting on the porch swing on our wrap-around porch. From a distance, the lush green plants seem to be healthy and thriving.

Last week, however, I spent some time fertilizing and trimming up some of the garden plants and I discovered some of my plants weren’t as healthy as a quick glance from a distance made them appear. The heat and humidity had brought powdery mildew to the leaves of my yellow squash and cucumber plants. A closer look revealed that my peony plants had it too! I had to begin to give these plants some individual attention to nurse them back to health.

I chose to simply prune the peony plants down to stubs in the ground as they were covered in the mildew.  I remember my Papaw telling me to just mow over the peony plants every year after they were done blooming and they always came up beautifully the next Spring. The squash and cucumber, however, needed some TLC. I mixed 1 tbsp of baking soda with one gallon of water, poured it into a spray bottle and then treated them daily for 3-4 days and every other day after that until it cleared up.

So what’s that have to do with parenting? 

In our book, No More Perfect Kids, Dr. Kathy Koch and I talk about perfection infection parenting. When the perfection infection invades our parenting we have unrealistic expectations of our kids and we unfairly compare our kids to others. This puts pressure on our kids to perform, breeds disappointment and discontentment, and robs the parent/child relationship of joy.

But there’s good news! There are four antidotes that kick the perfection infection right out of our parenting. One of those is PERCEPTION.

As parents, it’s important to be in tune with our kids. What do they like? What do they dislike? Do they need alone time? Are they creative? Athletic? Musical? What is important to them?

I’ll admit that, with five children, there were times when I simply parented “the herd.” I saw them as a group rather than the individuals that they are. It was like looking at the plants from the porch. They looked okay from a distance, you might say.

The more perceptive I became, the more I was able to see them as unique human beings who have different personalities, temperaments, and skills. When I gave them individual attention, I was better able to see where their “leaves” were wilting, where they were struggling, and where they needed a little TLC.

(PHOTO: What I saw from a distance and then what I saw up close.)

Perception increases when life slows down. It expands when we spend one-on-one time with our kids.

Perception not only helps us see how a child is wired, but it also helps us connect with how he or she is doing emotionally. Kids don’t usually walk up to you and say, “I’m sad today.” Instead, they will lash out at a sibling with words or they will withdraw and be unusually quiet. Perception reads the cues a child is sending.

So my weeding last week reminded me to slow down and look closely at how my loved ones are really doing.  In the same way that I couldn’t see the condition of my plant’s leaves until I looked closely, I can’t see the condition of my kids’ hearts until I give them the individual attention they need and deserve…even as the young adults they are today.

What about you? Where do you need to increase your perception? What are you looking at from a distance that you need to be looking at more closely? 

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