Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

May 17, 2013

Garden Shovels -Small Does the Trick

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 9:53 pm
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Spring has sprung, and in my neighborhood everyone is working on lawns and gardens. Our cold, stormy winter seemed endless, and we can’t wait to brighten our stoops, porches, window boxes and yards with color.  So, along with my neighbors, I made my way to the nursery, brought home several flats of annuals and perennials, put on my gardening gloves and was ready to go.  Except, the only digging instrument I could find was a snow shovel!  After another trip to the store to bring home a garden spade, I realized, there are times when you need a tool that let’s you work on a small scale.


Parents and educators have to pay attention to big issues, safety, learning, shaping the moral development of our children and students. So many of the big jobs of parenting, however, also require working on a very small level, on the minutiae of everyday life.  Do we teach safety with lectures on large, philosophical ideas? Or do we teach with the small acts of holding hands as we cross the street, and redirecting curious toddlers away from the stove?  Do we begin by teaching calculus and reading Shakespeare, or do we start with ABC and 2+2.  And when we teach morality, long-winded lectures are less powerful than the small, but real moments where we let our children see us doing the right thing.


So much of parenting and teaching is about the small stuff, getting in the crevices, digging away, slowly and carefully, work that could never be done with a big shovel.  We need the miniature garden spade, pointed at the end, allowing accuracy and helping us dig where we need, but not disturb everything around it.   Especially when our teaching or parenting involves addressing a weakness or problem in our children’s lives, we need tools that allow delicacy.  We need to be able to get to the root of difficulties, while not damaging the essence of who our children are. We want them to flourish and be whole– even when there are elements of behavior we want to change.


Parenting and education are often compared to gardening.  We plant seeds, we nurture, we weed, we water, and we pray and hope for a bountiful crop.  There is a major difference however.  Professional farmers and weekend gardeners alike know that each crop has a growing season, a time to plant, tend, and harvest.  Parents and educators know that children’s growing season is . . . always!  24/7, 365 days a year, forever, children benefit from the ministrations of caring adults.  It doesn’t stop when they can walk themselves to school, or when they get their driver’s license, or go to college, or get married.  Parenting is a perennial (no pun intended!) task.  Luckily, it rewards us in every season, too.  We are blessed with giggles, smiles, darling papers, insightful essays, good-night kisses, and with that feeling we get when we look at one of our children and just feel overwhelmed with pride, wonder, and yes, worry.  This Spring, as we dig around in our gardens, working to bring out the blooms, let’s be proud planters, and enjoy our families’ growth, too.




1 Comment »

  1. thanks for a great metaphor and most beautiful insight.

    Comment by devora kresch — May 20, 2013 @ 6:01 am |Reply

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