Ten years ago, when my husband Scott and I had just moved into our new house, I realized that I had no idea how on earth to prune the huge rosebushes under the front window.
Enter my mother for a one-on-one tutorial. Gloves on her hands, shears at the ready, she instructed me in the do’s and don’ts of pruning.
You find an outward-facing bud and cut just above it. You make sure the cuts angle slightly downward. You remove any canes that cross others.
This past weekend, I mentally reviewed these rules as I geared up for my annual pruning. With my huge gardening compost bin at the ready, I learned in among the canes and started to snip.
And, just like I do every year, I found myself faced with many thorny dilemmas.
When it comes to pruning, there is theory, and then there is reality. And the reality is that sometimes you just can’t find an outward-facing bud. Sometimes, you aren’t sure which canes are really dead. Sometimes, the branch is so close to the house that you can’t get the right angle and you just have to cross your fingers and snip anyway.
Every year, I face all these situations and I have no choice but to muddle through as best I can.
A few years back, it hit me that the act of pruning is uncannily close to the act of parenting. In both cases, you need some expert advice to get you started (what would I have done without my mom’s help during the first few weeks of my son’s life?). In both cases, you learn best by doing. And in both cases, sometimes you feel like you’re flying blind, faced with situations that look nothing like the directions you’ve been given.
There is the cane with no branches or visible buds; what do you do with that? There is the toddler who won’t respond to rewards, reason, or timeouts; what do you do with him?
Like all parents, I want to raise my kids to flourish. I want to help them become compassionate, honest, responsible, curious, intelligent, spiritual, happy human beings. In my more vulnerable moments, I feel as though I’m messing up, making mistakes that will stunt their growth. There are parenting guidelines and philosophies in my mind, but there are many times when applying them is far less neat and easy than I would have expected.
Those are the tough moments. They are the moments when all I can do is take a deep breath, trust my gut, and make what seems like the best decision given the circumstances at hand.
And is it enough? I certainly hope so.
It’ll be a while before my boys are finished growing and blooming. They are very young shoots, these little guys, so it’s hard to imagine a time where I can sit back, look at them, and think, “Hey, I guess did a good job.” I hope that moment does come someday.
Until it does, though, I will just have to trust my gut and look to my roses. Every winter I wonder whether I’m pruning them right, second-guessing myself at every snip. And every spring they explode into gorgeous bloom, exuberant and fragrant and beautifully forgiving of my mistakes. Every spring they astonish me with their color and splendor, as if to show me that maybe, just maybe, I’m doing an okay job after all.
When have you had to trust your instincts in a thorny parenting situation?
Copyright 2014 Ginny Moyer