I'm sure I've mentioned how in our family we add chores as consequences when behavior is undesirable. This week has been rather challenging for one particular 5 year old in our household. As part of her consequence, she had to pull weeds in the yard.
Now, we've conveniently ignored the weed situation in our yard, and it's getting embarrassing. This job was going to take some effort, and we wanted it that way.
Now, with her being just a wee tyke, I knew she wouldn't be able to do the task alone. As I was pulling these weeds up from the dry dirt, many a deep thought took place in my fragmented mind.
Years ago I met a woman who is now one of my best friends. She has influenced so much good in my life, I can scarcely begin to describe it all.
She lived down the street from my childhood home. She was eyeball deep in raising four small kids. She was beginning her journey with horses, and she liked to walk for exercise. She struck up a friendship with my mom. And I am ever so grateful.
She embraced my obnoxious seventeen year old self, and welcomed me into her family. She spent countless hours feeding me, nurturing me, healing me, and teaching me. We laughed together. We cried together. She shared her experiences with me. She taught me how to nurture others. She taught me the gospel.
One day many years ago, I was sitting at her counter, eating yet another wonderful home cooked treat, and she began to tell me about what she'd been up to with the kids. Spring had sprung, and it was time to plant the annuals. She'd made a trip to the local nursery - buying loads of those dainty and quite finicky little pansies and petunias. She then gathered her young kids around, and they started to plant.
As they worked, she seized the opportunity to teach her kids. She told them about the fall of Adam. How he chose life, but in the same breath, chose death. How the earth had been a perfect paradise until that point, but was cursed by the fall. Rather than putting forth only beautiful and productive plants, there would also spring forth noxious weeds and other nuisance plants. She explained how we are stewards over the earth, and have the responsibility to rid the earth of the noxious plants and weeds. We should be careful and respectful with our power and responsibility. We should beautify the earth. She taught them about agency and the love our Father in Heaven has for us. That he would be willing to let us risk death because he wanted us to be able to choose. He gave his only begotten, even our brother, to create a way for us to be with him again. She bore her testimony to those babies as they planted those finicky plants.
Now, her kids are almost all grown up. Half of them are married and moved out. They are strong, spiritual, beautiful, hard working, intelligent, and lovely people. And yet, they are very human people who fight the human battle. Life tests them. Life tests their parents. As I see her family, I see my future. And I wonder.
I wonder, do they remember that moment? The thousands of moments that were maximized? That every moment was a teaching moment? That their parents tried to squeeze out every chance - in every-single-possible-teensy-weensy moment to enrich their lives? To teach them all they would need to know to survive the hard world? That all of the teaching, and preaching, and lecturing, and even the yelling, was love. Love brought to life. That every waking moment as a parent is truly spent wanting to create a place and life and an experience that will really matter for your kids.
As I knelt next to my baby, I thought about her future. Will she remember this minute? Will she look back and understand I chose to be her compadre rather than drill sergeant in this moment? Will she think back and know I cared more about her than the mistake she made?
I was shoulder to shoulder to her and wanted to make the most of it. She was out there with me because there had been a confrontation. This could play out in a couple of ways. We could walk away enemies. We could also walk away friends.
She talked. I talked. We talked. I tried to teach. I also tried to learn. Maybe she learned a little, too. Either way, we finished as friends.
My take away from that experience was a feeling of deep and sincere appreciation. I was grateful I'd remembered my friend telling me about the time she planted those finicky flowers. I was grateful she had taken the time to share her story. What if she'd talked herself out of telling me? After all, it was just planting some flowers.
I was grateful for the work ethic I earned from my parents. How they were direct with me, and had really high expectations sometimes. I try for that with my kids. They usually meet that expectation and even exceed it. Dream big kids!
I was grateful to be able to work in the dirt with my girl. I see so much of myself in her. She is presumptuous and wise beyond her years. Sometimes, her desire to share that wisdom gets her in trouble. She is capable. She is driven. She is intense. She is also sensitive. And she hates to disappoint.
Being out of doors, working in the dirt brought me some clarity. Often we get caught up in the "thick of thin things". While I chatted with my girl, I was able to let go of the "things" and focus on truth. I was grateful for those noxious weeds and how they truly are so much more. That everything on this Earth was created for us. That even those prickly, ugly, no-good weeds could be a life lesson for both of us.