Monday, July 20, 2009

Bringing out my maternal instincts

Gardening appeals on a primal level -- it is giving birth and raising the offspring, albeit with plants instead of babies. When I was pregnant with our older son, I couldn't stay out of the garden. Those raging hormones practically forced me to grow and nurture something, and plants were the perfect choice while I awaited his birth. What gardener doesn't take parental pride in their plants, and watching the process from seed to mature plant is an expedited version of watching the kids grow up (without 2 a.m. feedings or stinky diapers).

Vegetable gardening takes this experience one step further, because now I am raising not only the plants but also the vegetables they produce. This morning, I was so excited by my first mature pink eye, purple hull pea pod (since last night it had turned from green to purple), I wanted to run in to grab David and bring him out into the garden to observe our latest arrival. He was busy exercising, and would have barely feigned excitement anyway, so instead I grabbed the camera. I never tire of witnessing this process of change and maturation in the garden, especially when the results are as beautiful as my purple pea pod.

The kids are equally enthusiastic about observing the vegetables mature in the garden. Together, we inspect the plants each day, looking for new flowers or vegetables and talking about the changes as they take place. This excitement has not yet created an interest in actually eating the vegetables, but there's always hope. In the meantime, they are gaining valuable knowledge and becoming excellent observers in the garden.

Even though they have no plans to eat our produce, the boys especially enjoy seeing the vegetables reach maturity. They can't wait to pick the snap beans, or use the pruners to cut off the eggplants and tomatoes. Once, I was so focused on making sure that no one lost a finger, my older son accidentally cut off the entire top of the plant while harvesting one poblano chile. He felt terrible, but the plant quickly recovered, and I'd gladly sacrifice a few vegetables in exchange for his participation in the garden. Raising these vegetables together as a family has been rewarding for all of us. In some small way, I think the vegetable garden is preparing my boys to enjoy the responsibilities and challenges of fatherhood. They just better not let my older son cut the cord in the hospital.

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