We have a ridiculous amount of fruit-bearing trees in our backyard; especially considering we live on a tiny lot, like most houses in Arizona. And the pool takes up 3/4 of the backyard, leaving little room for any space to plant.
If you’re part of the Desert Ridge HOA and reading this, you just put your little peepers away and move right along. What goes into our backyard STAYS in our backyard. Including the little boys in their bathing suits.
Today, they all came rolling out of the house shrieking and screaming and they jumped into the pool.
I surveyed the backyard while I patrolled the mayhem. Our orange and lime tree weren’t doing well. They haven’t done well since last summer, aka “the hottest actual summer on record.” We lost a few of our passion fruit vines along the back wall as well, but the ones remaining recovered and are lush and green from all the rain this summer.
Dave has a green thumb the size of Rhode Island. He got it from his mom. Everything they touch just starts growing and flourishing. And those who attempt to grow things here in the “High Sonoran Desert” are a special breed of determined grower.
Over the years, we have filled our backyard with every type of edible imaginable: We have figs, both Black Mission and Violetta de Bordeaux. We have a yuzu tree (Japanese citrus). We have Mandarin Orange, Blood Orange and lime. We even have a pomegranate tree. Whoever thought pomegranates flourish in the desert? You’d be surprised what survives and even thrives here in the desert.
Did you know some clever people have even created a citrus tree that grows as many types of citrus as you want? It’s grafting, of course. For those with even less space than what we have, what a perfect tree! Lemons, oranges and limes all on the same plant.
I looked back over at the boys and I smiled at the commotion.
All three from the same tree. Yet so very very different.
If I had to answer the question, “What is the hardest thing about parenting?,” I would say, “Having to parent the differences.” They’re not only different from each other, but they’re different from ME.
One time, I heard one of my wise parent mentors tell me, “Become a student of your children. Study them. Get to know them… get to the bottom of who they are.”
Joshua is pensive and sensitive. He’s moderately insecure. He will let some things in his life cause him great anguish before he says anything because he holds it all in and thinks it to death. His feelings get hurt easily. He has a growth mindset. He not only tries his best at everything, he usually takes it upon himself to surmount any obstacle in his path.
Samuel is confident to the point of being prideful and a bit of a jerk. He’s a tease and extremely clever. He loves all animals and babies. He gets angry any time he feels shamed or disrespected. Which is a lot. He has a fixed mindset, meaning he tends to blame everything and everyone else for his problems. He gives up quickly.
TJ is driving the party bus wherever he goes. He is confident, does not think things through and just acts on impulses. The results are usually really fun. But not very wise or safe. Highly relational, TJ doles out hugs and kisses with abandon and somehow manages to atone for all his sins with one flash of his pearly whites.
Rachel… the jury’s still out on some of her finer points. Currently, she is an absolute daredevil and seems to have a surprising lack of fear for such a tiny little girl. She does whatever she puts her mind to. She laughs a lot and has no problem telling everybody what to do even though her vocabulary only consists of a handful of words.
Of course, Dave and I share some of their characteristics, because after all, it’s our DNA, but my head just spins as I think about all their nuances and how much each are their own person independent of us.
As we help grow them and water them and prune them (per the job of a gardener) it’s important that we’re honest about both their strengths and their weaknesses.
For example, knowing how Joshua can struggle with insecurity and lights up with encouragement, I pepper my speech with effusive, sometimes over-the-top encouragement and “atta-boys.”
Sammy, on the other hand, scowls at me when I throw any encouraging words at him. OK, mom. Put it in reverse. Try another tactic with Sam. Sam needs a lot of full-stop, tough-love reality checks. When he starts down the road of “blame game,” I get in his face and firmly remind him that accidents happen. Move along child. Stop raging like an angry Tasmanian devil and learn from your mistakes.
TJ just needs to be wrapped in a giant bubble. Let’s just skip him while I try to survive another day.
It’s almost unreasonable… the mental gymnastics required to parent all these kids at the same time throughout a day. As the original and greatest parent who shows us how, God more than understands that: literally parenting billions of people like you and I– all day long. Good on ya, Lord. This is why you are God and I’m not. I alone am a lot to handle.
The boys finished their millionth swim for the day, grabbed their towels and laid on the tile like small harbor seals soaking up what’s left of the summer sun.
I looked at that orange tree and kind of wanted to just pull it up and start over. It’s in bad shape and after a summer of good monsoons, still didn’t look like it wanted to do anything except shrivel up and die.
Which is me on a *good* day of parenting.
I’m grateful God hasn’t uprooted me yet. Because I have a lot more growing to do.
An American humorist, writer and author. When boiling down the chicken soup of life, she finds those golden, fried nuggets of truth & writes them long after the kids go to bed.