As a regular and quite recent facebook user I soon discovered “Farmville”. You may know it, the game application where you get a little patch of virtual land. You can then plow the earth, buy seeds, plant them and wait for them to grow. Plants grow, you harvest them and get money, which can be used for exciting things like buildings, lemon trees, cows, pigs or chickens – great fun.

Well, this application had me interested for a few weeks. It was quite nice to plant the seeds then come back in 1-2 days and find fully grown plants. It gave me something to look forward to in the day. After I expanded the farm a bit, got a few animals and nearly towards generating some kind of balanced diet, well it did get a bit boring. I’m quite glad to say.

What happened next though, was quite amazing. I actually went out and bought some real seeds and a seed tray, shoved them in and did the same thing – waited. Surely enough after a few days, things did begin to grow out of the earth. It was incredible. I have to admit to never doing this before in my life. My previous experience of plants was to buy and kill them. Unlike children or animals, plants were just never loud enough or made enough demands for me to pay attention.

So I took the next step and dug out a bit of the garden, mixed in a bit of compost from the neighbours and inserted seedlings in. Watered, even fertilised. Waited… and amazingly enough those little plants continued to grow.

My husband kindly cut logs to delineate a space and now we have it – a real vege garden. With live things, that actually grow. I’m pleased to say I’ve even been remembering to water it. Checking it for new leaves. Could it be that I’ve become a gardener after all.

We’ll see how long it lasts – after all I have had new projects before (joining the gym, mosaics, guitar, saxophone, novel writing) none of which are still happening.

This is all supposed to be leading to the main point, which is my gardening theory of parenthood. Like plants, children naturally grow and flourish and learn and develop when they are given the right conditions. We don’t always know in what direction they will grow, or even what kind of plant they are sometimes. But our job is to wait, watch – provide the earth and the water and the sunshine. Love, food, shelter, protection, nourishment. Allow them to grow. Don’t get in their way and they will bloom in amazing ways.

The gardening approach to parenting is in contrast to the baking / cookie cutter approach. Baker knows what kind of cookie she wants, prepares dough according to recipe, cuts dough to shape and puts in the oven. Gets exactly the cookie she prepared from the recipe.

But a cookie is not alive.

I want to be a gardener parent.