A Plant Momaphor

I've never been able to keep a plant alive.

It's not that I forget about the plant, ignore it, leaving it thirsty. It's more like I over think it, water it too often, and prune it too much.

I'm a recovering control freak.

I thought about this today as I (conservatively) pruned a plant of ours that's been living a record amount of time in my care. This plant was given to me after my Grandpa died, and I was afraid from the start that I'd kill it. The difference this time is that I'm being less careful. I'm holding back when I start to worry if I'm doing it just right. Should I water it again, does it seem droopy, the edges of the leaves are getting a little brown, maybe I should move it....

No, I say to myself. It's fine, it'll be fine. I've simply been letting it live, even when a little brown colors the corners of it's leaves.

Quite a metaphor for life, I think. I so often want to panic or jump ahead or fix things before they need fixing. In motherhood, I'm probably a bit hyper-vigilant, calling the doctor before I really even know if there's a problem, or discussing what to do about this or that endlessly with my husband. Like any mother, I mull over how I can shelter my boys from pain, or I work really hard at relieving that pain when it rears it's inevitable head. I've been learning slowly to have more of a go-with-the-flow approach to parenting, but when fears creep in, I have a tendency to over-think things. Of course, these boys mean so much to me, I sometimes mistake controlling their world as a form of love.

That's when I find myself with that familiar non-green thumb impulsivity welling up in me, when I feel the need to grab the watering can and scissors and take care of business, thinking I'm the only one on the planet that knows exactly what to do and how to do it. A person can really screw things up that way, controlling the life right out of things, people, decisions, stealing away what the experience or lesson was meant to be.

This one has a whole lot of brown at the top, I better take care of that. Snip. This one's a little yellow, only I know exactly where to cut it. Snip. This one's probably killing the plant. Snip. I have to help get it just right or we'll be wrong, snip snip snip...

until there's nothing left,
no growing or flourishing,
no sprouting out of the ground and reaching toward the sun.
No life.

I believe my boys will be watered and pruned exactly as they should be, even with a little brown around the edges of their leaves, the color of fear, mistakes, and pain. Letting go of control means trusting that the brown will be pruned away in it's own time, no matter how green I think my thumb is, and despite the thousands of unknowns that loom over my 'plants.'

The plant I was given after my Grandfather's funeral means more to me than any plant I've ever had. I suppose that's why I hold back on all that extra watering and pruning. I've learned the hard way what happens when I do that, and this plant means too much to allow myself to get in the way. This time, I'm simply meeting it's basic needs and stepping back.

I guess that's what I'm trying to learn as a mother too, holding myself back and allowing my little plants to flourish, to live and learn, because they mean so much to me. Sometimes that's terrifying, even now in these early years, and I know it's only going to get harder. But I suppose that means I'm truly living too, all that brown around my leaves getting pruned away.


Heather writes at The Extraordinary Ordinary

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