I recently took my children to a friend’s daughter’s birthday party. After the party, the children were offered a choice of party favors. I was surprised when my 5-year-old son, the farm boy (like, we actually live on a farm), chose a little plastic pot with a seed in it (guaranteed to grow, just add water). I started coaching him to choose something else, saying, “Leave the seeds for other children. You have millions of seeds at home, so maybe a new eraser for school?” But he dug in and brought the pot home.
As a mother, I should really learn to keep my mouth shut, because I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the next few days, he cared for his little potted plant with so much care it was stunning. He watched the little sunflower seedling emerge from the soil, drop its seed shell and poke its head toward the light. Each day he carefully carried his little pot to the sink and added just a few drops of water, not enough to flood the tiny pot.
Besides being a farm mom, I have a Master’s degree in environmental education. I know all about hands-on involvement and how it inspires children. But I have to admit I was completely caught off guard by his intense level of interest in and care for this single little seedling. I assumed that since he sees us planting trays of seeds by the thousands, he did not need his own. He often helps us water the greenhouse which is filled wall to wall with trays of seedlings. But it was completely different for him to have his very own.
Thinking about it now, it makes perfect sense. Involving him in our work is different than giving him his very own. We all feel more responsible for projects that are directly under our care. We have all heard “it takes a village,” and I seem to learn that lesson again and again. Even though giving my son his own plant would have been the easiest thing in the world for me, it turned out it was another villager who finally gave him his very own seed.
This article originally appeared here on kveller.com. Kveller.com offers a Jewish twist on parenting, everything a Jewish family could need for raising Jewish children–including crafts, recipes, activities, Hebrew and Jewish names for babies…and advice from Mayim Bialik.