Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Root of the Problem

Yesterday, TinyTuna came home in a snit. She got third place in an annual writing competition, and since it wasn't first place, it wasn't good enough for her and she was mad. That, combined with the usual fourth-grade angst of friends, enemies, boys, basketball and four-square equaled one big emotional storm cloud.

I understand bad days. I understand both the real and the imagined problems of being ten. I am willing to listen and console. But I have a very, very low tolerance for snit.

So after several veiled and not-so veiled slumps, stomps, arm-crosses, dramatic sighs and the usual response of "Whaaaaat??" when I glared at the behavior in question, I had had enough. I told her "no more talking," and then I told her go inside and sit on her bed. After she stomped off, I went outside to pound something.

Cultivating is a good thing to do when you're frustrated. Since our soil is full of clay, there are never-ending opportunities to sit down and whack at dirt clods. The clay is so dense and heavy, the roots can't push through and grow. So I pound and pound and pound, and feel better seeing these massive clumps become small pieces of rubble. I'll never be able to get rid of all the clay, but I can break it down into small enough pieces so it is workable and the plants can grow.

Weeding requires a steadier hand and a slower pace. It's an activity for which I admittedly have less patience. But I sat down last night under the tree and tried to rediscover the lily of the valleys and the crocus leaves which were lost in a jungle of encroaching grass and weeds. Clippers in hand, I whacked down the grass that I was unable to get to with the lawn mower. Hello plants! I knew you were in there somewhere.

As I worked my way around the tree, TinyTuna came outside. Her clothes were changed, her garden clogs were on, and she asked quietly if she could help. "Sure," I said, and she sat down and had a little garden therapy of her own. We pulled weeds, we loosened the soil and we found ladybugs. Recalling excellent advice I had heard the day before, I decided not to launch into a behavior lecture. I just wanted her to "be" for awhile, and find her own answers.

We finished under the tree, and she asked if we could plant some flowers. We grabbed the flat of marigolds and TinyTuna happily flew into full on Martha mode. I dug the holes and she chose which variety would go where...creating a beautiful splash of color down the driveway.

"I like to plant," she said.

"You do a good job," I answered.

Looking around, she said, "It's a beautiful garden."

"Sure is," I agreed.

Just as we finished planting, the sky announced that "Run for your Lives" weather was set to return at any moment. We grabbed our tools and put everything away. Before we went inside, TinyTuna said, "Just a minute. I need to write something!" She grabbed her sidewalk chalk and went to work on the driveway.

She wrote "Thanks for letting me be a small part of our garden."

GramTuna made her change it.

It now read: "Thanks for letting me be a BIG part of our garden."

I silently thanked the garden for just being there. Flowers, weeds, clay and all.


Gary said...

Tuna, this was a great story. There was probably more teaching done in those few minutes in the garden than in a week full of lectures.

TVJ said...

Note to self. Don't read Tiny Tuna stories without waterproof mascara. Please excuse me while I dash off to the powder room to touch up my Alice Cooper look.


lifeonhold said...

Aw, I'm a little misty. Great story.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of saps we are!
That story made me well up, too.
Tiny taught you a lesson, as well;)

Anonymous said...

Glad to know I am in good company as far as the water works.

GreenTuna, thank you so very much for sharing your wisdom. You are definitely an inspiration.