Before we had children, we used to do a lot of gardening. When we bought our current house, lots of work was needed, both inside and out, but we focused on the outdoor stuff. It was so rewarding, so relaxing. We installed a raised ‘allotment’ bed and started experimenting with ‘growing our own’. In our first year we had successes with carrots, courgettes, onions and have since managed to do quite well with a few fruit trees and discovered the pure excitement and exhilaration of digging up our own potatoes. It’s actually like finding treasure. How have I got to a fairly ripe old age and not yet discovered this??
Anyway….fast forward a couple of years and along come our two little darlings.
I am becoming aware that, every time I type that sentence, my teeth are a little bit ‘gritted’. I am banging the keys on my lovely shiny new Mac a little too hard. I do love them more than anything (including digging up potatoes) but, oh my, do they dominate absolutely every activity and situation in our lives. I’m not sure we were ready for this. I’m not sure this is really what we signed up for.
Take our attempt today to plant some mini corn-on-the-cob, a courgette plant and some sugar-snap peas. Not much to ask, you may think.
Cue misty images of our beautiful children smiling up at us as they begin to learn all about nature and how wonderful it will be in a few months time when we can start to harvest from our garden and watch the vegetables go straight to our plate…. (alright, so they are aged one and two-and-a-half. The oldest one only knows the phrase ‘in a minute?’ and the youngest still thinks it’s ok to eat mud.)
That lovely time pottering in the garden; wandering around planting a few things; looking at the buds and blossom on the fruit trees; doing a little bit of pruning to tidy things up; sitting with a cuppa admiring our hard work….? Not so much.
“Mummy, why do birdies eat worms?” Bumble (two-and-a-half; name changed to protect the innocent) has discovered two wriggling worms and is holding them, tightly. “Yes” I reply, then, to try to divert tears or distress, “but that’s ok because the baby birdies need food and there are LOTS of worms.” “I find them” says Bumble, and off she toddles.
I’m planting the corn next to the potatoes (that went in a few weeks ago and have just started sprouting their leaves). Hubby has already given up on trying to cook dinner at the same time – we both need to be in the garden if we have any hope of getting anything done in a reasonable timescale.
Bimble (aged one, currently learning to Bimble all over the place, hence the nickname) is busy stabbing a small child’s garden fork into the new potato greenery. “Leave those sweetheart” I find myself saying, knowing full well the poor leaves will not be left until I pick her up and move her to the other side of the garden.
“Mummy, look, the wormies are using my kneeling pad”. Bumble is back; the worms are now rigid with fear and over-handling but are, indeed, on the kneeling pad. “Can I help?” she asks, walking across to where I have created some lovely loose soil, trampling this and the poor potatoes leaves in the process. “Careful darling” I say almost absently, wincing as I watch her step back onto more potato foliage. “Can I dig a hole for the wormies?” she asks, picking up my trowel and planting it perilously close to the small, delicate corn plants. “Careful sweetheart. There’s lots of little plants around, we need to look after them. BIMBLE, NO” I watch in horror as Bimble’s filthy hand hovers in front of her mouth, wet compost ready to be tasted.
Putting my fork down, I move to relocate her again, away from the compost and the potatoes.
“Mummy….” comes a voice from the other end of the garden. I’m struggling to remember the measurements I just worked out for planting the corn. I want to put the courgette in the middle. It’s a nod to the three sisters planting method used by native American Indians. Corn, squash, beans. We don’t have beans. Thankfully, there aren’t three sisters either – just two. “MUMMEEEEE” comes the scream now, and I realise the water butt has discharged most of its contents over the patio. “Ok, coming” I call, realising that Bimble has found an old pot from last year that is full of dirty rainwater. She’s gleefully tipping it up and watching the water slop around inside. “Try to switch the tap off Bumble, turn it the other way.” Bumble dutifully turns herself round and tries the tap again, water cascades across the patio and I break into a run. Halfway there, I see Bimble making her way purposefully across the lawn towards the potatoes and delicate, unprotected corn plants which haven’t yet been planted. “Bimble, no!” I shout as I run in the opposite direction. “Da daaaaaa mamamama” she babbles, pointing in my general direction, whilst swinging an arm wildly towards the corn seedlings that have been lined up in position for planting. I switch off the tap, turn and sprint back up the garden to rescue my poor crops. Bumble follows on, wielding her overfull watering can. I manage to reach forward and pick up Bimble, swinging her out of the way of tender young plants, just in the nick of time…..the nick of time, that is, for Bumble to stomp across the potatoes and fill all my carefully dug holes with water. My carefully planned plot is now awash with half-drowned seedlings and muddy puddles.
I’ll spare you the gory details that lead up to dinner being ready and me managing to herd the two little darlings into the kitchen for hand washing and welly boot removal. I can honestly say I was delighted to hand over the reins to hubby and enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet as I tidied up and salvaged what planting I could.
As I hear so often in relation to anything to do with parenting, it is but a phase. This time will pass, and, once again, we will be able to enjoy some relaxation in the garden, Nobody will be eating mud, trying to rescue all the worms in existence or trampling our potatoes.
Until then, I guess we do get to enjoy watching two very precious little beings grow and blossom. That really is rewarding. And all our own work to boot.