There's a parable, I'm not sure where it's from, that goes something like this:
A man is on his death bed reflecting on his life when the devil walks in and starts praising him for all the amazing things he did with his life and all that he accomplished. After listening to the devil retell his life story and list his good works, the man agrees that he, all by himself, accomplished greatness. The devil congratulates him, and with a big smile, turns and leaves.
OK, let's shelve this for a minute. I have a plant. Actually I have a few, but one plant in particular was outside and looking mighty fine. It was in full bloom when a friend mentioned how beautiful it was and how I must have a green thumb. I was like, "Yeah, I'm pretty awesome," but then I remembered something ... I am terrible with plants!
Isla had bought it for me as a Mother's Day present. My mom helped her pick it out and my neighbor, Judy, watered it every day as it was just on the other side of the fence from her plant. I enjoy gardening, but it's by the grace of God that anything survives. I enjoy planting seeds, but find maintaining plants to be tedious. At some point in the summer I completely give up and just let things go into jungle mode.
It was then that I began wondering if my gardening style was actually a metaphor for my life.
Sometimes it seems "jungle mode" is my MO. I mean, I had all these kids in four years and they are wild and loud and kinda just happened. Sometimes what one may interpret as my laid back parenting style might just be plain laziness.
Truth bomb: Some days I forget to bathe them and give them cereal for dinner.
Maybe I'm being critical. Maybe we all do these things. But let me say this, I have four happy, healthy children and I'm not sure how big a role I played in that. I think this is just the hand I was dealt. Some people, people just as awesome, haven't been this lucky. It's not helpful to dwell on this but sometimes we need this reminder so we can be grateful for what we do have and recognize the people who helped us get where we are. Then we can continue to persevere because "it's not the hand you're dealt, but how you play it" and we all need help playing THIS game.
The expression "It takes a village" is never more true than when you have kids. People ask how I survived the early years, especially when the twins were newborns. Although I would like to be seen as this wise person on a mountain, I think that the truth is more helpful. The truth makes it OK to not have all the answers.
(Tangent: If it makes anyone feel better, I blacked out most of the first year of the twins' lives. I don't even know if I'm able to recall important milestones, at least to the extent that I could give a "how to" account. I breastfed for 11 months! Eleven! That does things to your brain. Also, the twins share a baby book in which I just shoved in the leaflets from the doctor and that's pretty much it. Winning!)
The truth is we are all doing our best with what we've got or if not our best, we are trying. It's a long day if you don't pace yourself. For the people who want advice, for the people who want to know how: Remember, you're not alone. Ask for help. It's humbling and gratifying. At the end of the day none of us is going to make it alone.
It's not me alone who keeps this garden growing. I owe so much to so many. In the early years it was my family that showed up with everything from food to underwear. It was teachers. It was friends who took the kids and insisted I nap. It was Starbucks. It was and is friends who show up with bourbon slushies. And was and may always be lots and lots of babysitters. Yes, thank you God for babysitters.
So back to the parable. I feel very little of the greatness in my life is my doing. I'm not saying I did nothing, I'm just saying there are some serious shout-outs. Thank you God for the hand I've been dealt and for blessing me with an amazing family and great friends.
So ... thank you to everyone helping maintain this garden. In the end, I will remember my Secret Gardeners.
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.