Friday, April 9, 2010

Children grow like weeds...

Spring is in full bloom at our house – trees are getting their leaves, birds are singing, the days are warming, and the flowers are bursting with color…especially the vibrant yellow of the dandelions that carpet my yard. Yes, I know that dandelions are considered weeds and that most homeowners fight a perpetual battle to defeat this arch nemesis of gardeners everywhere. And to be honest, in the past I have tried my share of chemical herbicides and lawn treatments…but not for long and not with much success. I gave it up. It just wasn’t that important to me. I have other priorities that deserve my money and time more than killing weeds.

This became especially evident when my daughter (a preschool-aged bundle of girl-energy) took an interest in the dandelions as they came into bloom one spring. “Look at the pretty flowers, Dad!” she squealed, as she ran barefoot through the grass collecting a bouquet of the otherwise un-loved little blossoms. As every child does, she especially enjoyed blowing the fluff of the mature flower and watching the seed scatter in the wind. In a child’s world, an endless supply of dandelions means an endless supply of fun. So how was I supposed to tell her: “Stay off the lawn for a couple of days, honey. Daddy just sprayed a chemical that’s going to kill all of your precious flowers”?

Besides the fact that I would be a killjoy for taking away my children’s outdoor entertainment, there is also the cost to consider. Now in the grand scheme of things I suppose the money I would spend on a couple of herbicide treatments each year would be pretty insignificant. But then again, why not fertilize the grass as well? I mean, if you are going to kill the unwanted plants like dandelions and crabgrass you should probably encourage the growth of the desirable grasses while you’re at it. Perhaps I should re-seed? Maybe de-thatch, and do a little landscaping, or have my trees professionally trimmed. You know, really get the yard looking nice.

I suppose I could spend some money on all of that and have a pretty fabulous yard. But my wife and I made a conscious decision several years ago that we want a simple life, uncluttered by needless expenses and modern material obsessions. To that end, we are probably the only ones in our neighborhood who do not have cable television or a satellite dish. We have never owned a cell phone, and while it is true that we do own a computer with internet connection, it is the most inexpensive dialup service we could find. We only have one vehicle because we both work within a quarter of mile from each other, and our kids are at a daycare that is within walking distance of our jobs, and we pass our son’s school during our three minute commute each morning from our home. So why buy a second car when we would all ride together anyway?

Granted, not every family is in a position to forego the purchase of a second car. We are unique in that respect. But certainly most people could eat out less, or not splurge on the latest iPod technology or cell phone upgrade, or spend more time at home with family and friends instead of spending money on expensive entertainment. This doesn’t mean cutting out all of life’s enjoyments. But enjoying less stuff usually means that the stuff we do enjoy is appreciated more! And that is an important lesson to teach our kids.

And for my wife and I, it really is about the kids. With the birth of each of our three children we found new ways to save money or make better use of the resources we have. We cut coupons, buy generic foods, check out movies from our public library instead of renting. We do without cell phones or cable TV. And we let the dandelions grow in our yard. If we are blessed with more children in the future (which I pray we are), then I am sure we will find more ways of cutting corners and making do with what we have.

Our kids learn from our example, but we can learn from them as well. As my daughter collects dandelions in our yard on a spring afternoon she follows her usual ritual. She bundles the limp stems together in her tiny fist and makes her way to the statue of Mary holding the Christ Child on display at the front of our house. She gently lays her precious gift at the feet of Our Lady and pats the statue on the head. The field of dandelions is her field of prayers offered at the feet of Mary. They may just be weeds to most people, but I have faith that Mary accepts this gift as gratefully as she would a dozen of the finest roses presented in the same fashion – perhaps more so.

They say that children grow like weeds…In my experience that old adage rings true. I hope to one day lay at Mary’s feet the bouquet of little dandelions that I tended in my yard. I believe I’ll keep my weeds even when the world tells us we should shun them for a well manicured lawn.

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