childhood, motherhood

Violets in a Storm


This morning as I was sitting here looking up a recipe for crystallized violets I was thinking about the way children grow. 

I should elucidate. The Jr Mad Scientist is turning 18 in a few short weeks. For her sixth birthday, I believe, I decorated her birthday cake with violets from the garden. That became the cake she measured all others against, that simple heart-shaped layer cake with flowers all over the top. Some days, that cake feels like it was just last week. Others? It’s a lifetime away for both of us. She has grown into a young woman, from the quirky little girl, and has obtained new quirks along the way. For me? It’s a passage of time. Of the four children, this will make all three girls reaching adulthood. 

I was over at the Ginja Ninja’s house yesterday, helping with a tool she didn’t have, and then doing consulting on her garden and landscape planning. It’s odd, to be in her house, this little dumpling baby with her tiny tuft of strawberry blonde hair overlaying the young lady with the long auburn forelock dangling into her eyes and looking down at me from a six-inch elevation. She was excited to learn that many of the herbs I’d planted there have managed to survive, and she will have thyme, lemon balm, chives, and oregano. Like mother, like daughter – she bought basil and sage plants to put in as well. 

Their future is uncertain in light of current events. It’s not going to be as easy as it might have been, in the timeline where the world didn’t go mad on the eve of the Jr Mad Scientist’s coming of age. I have confidence they will forge their own paths, find their own niches. I also worry over that which is coming. This is the calm before the storm, for them. I still have a lot of ability to shelter them. I can’t do that forever. 

I was talking with someone, recently, about starting plants in a greenhouse, and hardening them off before they could survive being planted outdoors. It’s a natural metaphor for raising children. Not necessarily for the reasons that spring to most people’s minds, though. What gets many hothouse starts isn’t the burn of the sun, or the nip of the frost. It’s the wind. Having been raised in an environment with no resistance at all, the poor little plant has not developed the strong fibers it needs to endure the constant buffeting of what we would think of as a gentle breeze. Their stem fatally snaps, and they lay down to die. 

Building character in children requires exposing them to the heat of the sun attenuated through shade – or in other words, let them slowly adjust to outside conditions. It means not putting them out so early in the season they can be frost bitten (and knowing that snap frosts can come out of season). And it means letting them have try-fail sequences. They cannot build the fibers of strength and character if they have not learned how to fail… and how to get back up again when they have failed. Sometimes over, and over, until you wonder if they will ever finish a project, accomplish that thing, or move out of the house. They will. If you give them the opportunity to reach for the sun that could burn them, and withstand the winds that could break them without your body being their perennial windbreak. 

And if you have a yard full of violets, you can turn the most common flowers into precious memories that will teach them to make do. And that making do with what’s on hand doesn’t have to be cheap, or tacky, or whatever pejorative the socially driven want to sniff at it. It can be an expression of love that endures. 


4 thoughts on “Violets in a Storm

  1. I need to read stuff like this now. My Dragonnette is a young lady to make any mother proud, but this latest event is hard on her. Sunday she came home from work and broke down – briefly, and not where Dad could see her – because this is so not what her teenage years should look like. She can’t visit her friends, she can’t go to school, and even when I have time off (Dad and I are both still working) we can’t do any of our usual things. She only gets away from home to go to work, where she does whatever is asked, whether it be bagging groceries, sanitizing carts, or cleaning. I want this to be over for her – I’ll gladly stay under house arrest for a few more months if it means she can have her normal back.

    So it helps to know that she will survive, and she will grow up and be stronger for this.

  2. Very Nice!
    This is the young lady who posed with you for your picture with the big gun on the Bubba Truck?

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