When I was about five or six years old, I discovered that there were carrots growing in my backyard. They were out behind the shed and the little green tops were only a couple of inches high when I came upon them. I was absolutely thrilled: right there in my own yard carrots had magically appeared all by themselves. What luck!
It never occurred to me that my mother might have planted them. Or that they might not be quite ready to eat. All I knew was that I had made a brilliant discovery and I needed to run and tell someone. So I pulled every last tiny carrot out of the ground and ran into the house shouting, “Look what I found!” Oh dear.
I thought of those carrots yesterday when I had children visiting my garden. I was hosting an open house for anyone who wanted to come and poke around my sabbatical garden, and families with young children delighted in seeing the sunflowers and helping me to dig potatoes. Suddenly I heard someone in the backyard saying, “Maybe we should pick the pumpkins?”
I sprinted to the backyard, bracing myself for some bad news. We had finally managed to grow a crop of pumpkins despite the wet spring, dry summer and squash borer infestation. It would be such a shame to lose them just before they turned orange!
I needn’t have worried. The kids had decided that they weren’t quite ready yet and had left that corner of the garden to oooh and aaah over the giant sunflowers. The pumpkins were intact and all was well. Whew.
To me, having children in a garden is essential. No one is more captivated by a ladybug or a freshly germinated green bean than a child. No one can find such delight in a dandelion, remind you why you have a lawn, or pick zucchinis with such excitement. Children in the garden remind us of the glory to be found in living creatures and the miracles that are present in every fruit and flower.
Having children in the garden, however, requires a great deal of attention. Leaving children unattended with your prize rose bush (or carrot patch) may well end in disaster. They may not immediately understand why we walk on the grass instead of the flower beds. Their zeal for weeding may be hampered by their inability to determine crab grass from lupins seedlings.
I think the risk is worth it. It was such fun to see M. pull up a potato and proudly show it off to her mother. I loved watching O. bravely taste the purple carrots. H. was so excited about the cucumber he picked that he started munching on it in the car on the way home!
Yes, having children around may mean extra work, or extra vigilance, but nothing can compare to their earnest curiosity or squeals of delight. Hanging around with children–whether in the garden or any other place–brings a zest to living that can’t be found anywhere else. So yesterday I soaked up their joy and thought of my tiny childhood carrots. Although I was embarrassed by my mistake at the time, I now understand that one lost crop is a small price to pay for a child’s genuine delight.