11/8/09

A Plant Momaphor

Sunday~November 8, 2009


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.

Snip.


34 clicked right here to comment:

Emma said...

You are so right I think we all try to hard to hard some times, I'll take your advise and just ignore it or things and let them work their way out.

H-Mama said...

"sometimes mistake controlling their world as a form of love" *sigh* We've all been there, haven't we? Live, learn... grow. ;) Great post, mom.

Kristina P. said...

I once did a post about how I have a brown thumb, and clearly, I will kill children if I try to raise them.

DeNae said...

Without trying to sound too -- I don't know, religious, maybe? Can I just mention that in the bible, plants are often symbols for people. So the Cedars of Lebanon or the Oaks of Bashan are the prideful people of the world, the "groves" that King Hezekiah knocks down are not only real trees / pagan temples but are also the people who worship there, etc.

So when I think of this beautiful "momaphor" of yours, I naturally extend it to what God is doing with me. He could over prune, over water, and over-fuss with me until I may look just fine but am incapable of surviving any kind of struggle. I fully intend to return to Him with a little brown around my edges and a drooping branch here and there, but stronger, wiser, and more fully aware of my dependence on His wisdom in the governance of my life.

It's ok that He lets me struggle. It's His ultimate expression of love. And that's exactly what you're doing with your own children, Heather.

Chief said...

Geeze Heather. YOu always hit the nail on the head. I find myself devouring every word because it is what I wish I could say or know.

My kids will thank you for this post because I am going to make an effort to back off a bit and let them brown at the edges knowing that it will be OK...more growth will replace those blemishes.

YOu are fantastic

sara said...

just like a plant can't grow if it is covered and over protected, neither can our children. Great post Heather! Funny how we can be learning the same things even though we are on opposite ends of the parenting cycle. learning how to let go of teenagers is hard too!!

Heather of the EO said...

Oh sara YES. Letting go of teens, I can't even imagine!!!
I'll need to remind myself of the plant mamaphor for the rest of my life, I'm sure :)

Wendi @ Every Day Miracles said...

Wow. am so guilty of 'overmothering'. Loved this post!

blueviolet said...

It's terribly difficult to learn that balance. It's because we care so much.

jubilee said...

Just one more thing we seem to have in common.

Great title, BTW.

Sande said...

Freedom comes in all sorts of packages and the big ones are enough to bowl you right over and leave you wallowing in the exhuberance of it all.

One of those for me is EXACTLY what you are describing. I believed I had to have a response to every argument or erronious thought my family had, to correct their behaviour therefore, hopefully, our happiness.

Bah Hah. Firstly, it's their thinking that needs to change and their behaviour just follows and secondly, the only way for their thinking to change is for them to actually think it through for themselves. So now, I salt them with questions ...

... but a bonus blessing came with this; I found I wasn't RESPONSIBLE for their choices and long story short, let them to live their choices, their lives and this freed me to live my own.

THERE IS AN AMAZING FREEDOM RIGHT THERE which could be unpacked in a majorly greater way than this but .... {sighs} how much is too much in a comment :}

Your post revs me us to this memory and now I'm good for a soap box.

Heather of the EO said...

Sande said-
"Firstly, it's their thinking that needs to change and their behaviour just follows and secondly, the only way for their thinking to change is for them to actually think it through for themselves. So now, I salt them with questions ..."

I really needed to learn that lesson. Loved all that you said. I like a good soap box moment myself every now and again :)

Bridget Chumbley said...

I really needed to read this, Heather.

I thought I had so much to worry about when my children were young, but now that they are a tween and a teen... the anxiety levels are off the charts and I'm ready for the next disaster before the first one ever hits.

Great post and analogy! Thank you.

Kazzy said...

I get in the way of the natural order of things sometimes too. Even with my older kids my husband gently reminds me sometimes that they need to make their own mistakes and learn some of their own lessons. It must just be a thing with moms.

warmchocmilk said...

I do this two..that's why I'm so bad and keeping plants alive also. Great metaphor :)

Tonya said...

Great post! And so very true. I often try to overthink and overengineer (some might say overcontrol) things -- and it's usually not all that helpful. Things seem to work out so much better when I remember to let go.

Jenn @ A Country Girl's Ramblings said...

I wrote a post about my control issues last week. Your post reminds me of myself! I loved you plant metaphor~ very creative!

Jen said...

I love this metaphor. It is truly beautiful.

Shana said...

This is a fabulous metaphor! How true! Ironically I have killed all the plants ever given to me except for one given to me from my Grandfather's funeral, as well. Thinking about it now, I believe it is for these exact reasons that I have been successful with this one. I will take this lesson and apply it to life with MY boys, as well. Thank you for sharing this wisdom!

L.T. Elliot said...

It's hard not to prune...in all things. I so want to fix everything. I want to know where the disease is, where there's not enough water, light, or love. It's hard to stand back and do so little.

Carrie said...

Wow, what a great 'momaphor'. :) Is that word copyrighted? I may use it in a devotional I'm giving this week. :) Anyway...I really liked this - I'm a classic over-thinker, too, so I appreciate the metaphor. :)

Jamie @ Six Bricks High said...

You are right...sometimes it is terrifying! I so often want to smother my kids and protect them from every element, but my heart knows they will flourish if I let them make some choices of their own (and mistakes even). It isn't always easy to watch.

Muthering Heights said...

This is so beautifully written...and very touching!

myimaginaryblog said...

This is a comment on a post a few back (because I don't know whether you'll see it there.) I love "big hearts in their eyes." What a great description. I've had the experience of talking nonstop about a health problem (once it was mine, another time my child's) and seeing people's eyes glaze over or see them try to change the subject, or on the other hand I've had people really, really listen, and been so grateful to them for that.

Kelly @ The Miller Mix said...

This is such a hard lesson to learn -- both with plants and people!

Blessed said...

ah control... what we think we have - but never really do have.

Debbie said...

Now how did you get into my mind without me noticing?
This seems to be the theme of my life lately. Holding back. Staying at a distance. Trying to let my little offspring spring off without me. Mama never told me how hard this would be!

Eowyn said...

I apparently should not be reading posts this morning because I'm two for two on crying through them.

Thanks for the reminder to pull back and relax.

Becca said...

Yes. I totally get it. How close is too close? How far away is too far? How can I let him run when I know he'll fall? But how could I not let him try?

AmyLK said...

WOW. What a wonderful metaphor. its so hard to find the perfect balance between over protecting and letting them live and learn. With my Aspergers Son, I find myself asking "Am I hovering or does he really need me to do xyz?"

mama-face said...

AMAZING.

Once I had children my plants died a slow death. I guess I can only take care of so much at a time.

Lovely plants. I can see why they mean so much to you. xo

--It's Your Movie-- said...

I have two plants from my Papa's funeral and I feel exactly like this about them. Exactly. I have even thought about it like this. Reading this post was almost eerie, but not, because I think God likes to remind us that we're all going through these things together, in a way.

Molly said...

what a great metaphor. I'm terrible with plants, the only reason we have them is because of my husband. It's so hard to step back and let you children grow, I think that's the biggest challenge as a mother.

Happy SITS Saturday!

Chanda @ The Eco-Cheap Mom said...

Ahhh! So that's why I tend to kill houseplants. It's funny, now that I am a mother I actually have 2 plants and I haven't killed them! I guess I don't have the time to over tend them. Although my hanging baskets that do require lots of water did not make it through the summer.

Very nice post!

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

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