Whatever you nurture, grows.
As I was pulling out of the driveway this morning, I saw the trenches that my oldest son had dug for me on Saturday in the front flower garden. It had taken two months to get them dug–not his fault–just family life, and so now I finally can get my tulip bulbs in the ground. The bags I picked up from Costco have been sitting in my mud room since September.
Tulips are my favorite flower! When my husband proposed to me, he gave me white tulips. And everywhere we have lived I have planted tulips. There is one very important thing to know about tulips: if you want to have tulips in the spring, you have to plant them in the ground in the fall (unless you force them, but that’s another topic). Thankfully, you don’t have to plant new bulbs every year, and they will multiply and divide so that the next year you have more! It’s a great deal! Except that as they mutliply and divide, they also grow smaller and weaker, so that after a couple of years, you have to plant new ones or your garden looks pretty scraggly.
So this year I’m up for planting! And the sight of the tulip trenches reminded me of early childhood. Just like planning for a flower garden, it is critical to consider how you spend your time with your children. You have to decide what you want the very most for your children and then nurture the activities that will encourage certain growth. Because whatever you plant and then nurture, will grow.
For example, I was given some great counsel when I was a young mother: “Turn off the TV and open a good book” (Gordon B. Hinckley). I recognized this as sound advice, and I really wanted my children to be readers. I had grown up around some families that were “reading families,” and I liked what I saw in their homes. I remembered clearly my first semester at college when I fell rapidly behind in my homework. I didn’t read quickly enough, and I seemed to be on a different standing than many of my peers in terms of a broad knowledge base. I knew that I had not read enough of what mattered. I determined to help my children be in a better position than I was when they left home.
So we did three things: we put bookshelves in every place we lived (and began filling them with the BEST books I could get my hands on–including a shelf for library books, of course!), we limited TV/media time, and we read aloud. A lot.
Time has passed now sufficiently for me to see that these were good choices. My oldest daughter, who seems to have been born with a proclivity for reading, developed a voracious reading appetite and did very well in school. She left well-prepared for college, at least with that goal I had set way back when I started university myself. (Now the rest is up to her. Phew!)
All of my children have become solid readers. Some took longer than others; some really struggled until they got their “strides,” each at their own time. One of my children pretty much hated reading until 4th grade, when things seemed to click for her, and she took off reading–in bed, at school, on the couch–and enjoying books for what seemed like the first time.
My youngest (seventh) child is now well beyond those early phonics readers and can read everything she puts her hands on. It is remarkable to me. Granted, none of my children have disabilities that might preclude such progress. And we have had access to libraries, computers, and had means to purchase books for birthday, Christmas and Easter gifts. I also knew how to read myself and, thanks to my background in teaching, knew how to teach a child to read. So in this regard, things were easy for us to have the opportunities to learn to read.
But it wasn’t easy in the other nurturing ways, and it didn’t always feel like we were making progress. It took tons of patience, perseverance, and creativity. It’s hard to not just leave the TV running or a child sitting for hours at the computer playing games. And sometimes while I was reading on the couch, I would start to nod off because I was a pretty tired mom. We just kept reading, no matter what. Books in the car. Books in the hall. Books in the bathroom. Books in our travel bags for trips to Grandma’s house. Books on tape, CD, and then mp3 players. Books read aloud at the kitchen table or by flashlight by a tired parent to tired children at their bedside. Books read aloud as a parent volunteer in their public school classrooms.
As I consider the gift reading has been to me and to my children, I feel thankful. Thankful for that sage advice I received early on. Thankful for parents who read to me and helped me to love reading, even if I wasn’t fast or didn’t read as much as might have been helpful growing up. They planted in me a love for books that I have been able to pass on.
Whatever you nurture, grows.