Well, it’s just a little unrealistic, as many things are when you have a young family, to try and have a garden. I mean, you can have a garden, but just be prepared that you won’t actually be able to do any work on it. First of all, there never seems to be time as by the time Greg gets off work, rides his bike home, we eat dinner and relax for a minute, it’s basically the kids’ bedtime. That and we are going back to our city of origin pretty much every other weekend for various reasons. Secondly, any time we can get to the garden plot, it seems like all the kids can do to get in the way, slow things down, or just plain destroy everything. That and they have the attention span for anything not related to Peppa Pig of about twenty minutes. Which, believe me, it takes more than 20 minutes to weed, water, plant, and harvest from a garden, especially if you only get over to it around twice a week.
What usually ends up happening is that we will pair some other errand with working at the garden. Usually, I end up having to take Miles with me grocery shopping while Greg keeps the older two at the garden with him. Miles in the grocery store is adorable but incredibly cumbersome. He now refuses to ride in the cart and insists upon walking next to the cart the entire time. Which is ok for short trips but less than ideal when I am trying to concentrate on a bigger haul. By the time we leave, I can end up pretty disgruntled and usually proclaim to Greg after we meet him back at the garden: “No more pairing gardening with shopping!” (Until the next week when the same thing happens:). Neither of us wants to get “stuck” with Miles. He’s just so damn unpredictable. Scratch that. You can pretty much count on him doing the most random and destructive shit imaginable. He’s been known to knock out an entire bed of vegetables during five minutes of inattention.
The first (and one of the only) times we had all three of the kids with us at the garden, someone a couple plots over commented on how “well-behaved” the kids were. I of course started guffawing at this (in my head while outwardly smiling humbly). Yesterday, the same woman was there only this time she got a real taste of what the kids are more often like. Ruth started condescending to Joel (who wasn’t doing something just so or said something that wasn’t quite right) who promptly responded by hitting her with a shovel. Ruth started screaming/crying like she had been stabbed and then spent the entire rest of the time sulking. Which would have been ok had it been quiet sulking but it was the kind of sulking where the person simply has to share their discontent with everyone within earshot. Every few minutes, seemed like every few seconds, she would whine, “Can we go? I’m cold! I have to go to the bathroom! Can we get ice cream?” and then tattling on Joel for various offenses. Joel was a little more agreeable but soon absorbed the mood of his sister and followed suit in the whining to leave. Meantime, Miles somehow managed to get drenched by the hose and step on and kill various vegetables and started in coming over to me asking for milk in that desperate way he has. It wasn’t long before Greg and I started snapping at each other. When I walked over and passed her the hose right before we left, all the garden neighbor woman could offer was, “Well, at least your help is cute.”
By the time we left, Greg and I both felt totally frustrated and stressed. Needless to say it was less than relaxing and not anywhere close to productive and to top it all off: extremely embarrassing.
This is gardening with small children.
(I’m actually just venting here as it’s the next morning and I’m still miffed at the whole experience. See? It’s hard to keep any kind of perspective on things when I am constantly with the kids. But, just so I don’t leave you with a terribly bitter taste in your mouth, I actually do really enjoy the garden and having the kids help. There are days when they run and play all over the space, finding puddles to splash in, eating random leaves from plants and digging in dirt. Actually, yesterday it wasn’t even all bad. There was a point when all three of the kids started helping me load up a wheelbarrow with dirt. Even little Miles started picking up big clods with his bare hands and hoisting them into the wheelbarrow. Ruth planted a tomato plant all by herself which she was very proud of. Joel was even trying to help me weed and watered a good portion of the garden. These moments are so fun yet the longer, harder work of the garden, essential to a successful one, is where they get bored, can’t help, and then begin whining. It’s really hard to strike a balance. Not to mention, not to lose your cool with them. That’s life with the kids in a nutshell. How to keep your own sanity and keep things functioning at a reasonable level while finding ways to include them, pay attention to them and make sure no one gets hurt. It’s my daily struggle and I am always finding my way. Making lots of mistakes along the way, you can bet on that. But hopefully, not making so many that they outweigh the good.)