Growing Like a Weed

Dandelions are basically the worst.

And why shouldn’t they be? (Okay, okay, I know that the roots and leaves are actually delicious, but this post is not about that, so bear with me.)

The arrogance of this weed is (nearly) unparalleled. They’re hard to see until their flowers sprout up and as soon as I see them, it’s basically too late. Their leaves have already choked out my erosion-preventing grass, at least one sphere of seed poof has already blown to smithereens at the lips of an enterprising child or breezy gust of wind, and their tap root runs so much deeper than it seems it should.

In today’s lawn, I see the failures of last spring to uproot unwanted plants and the promise of a weedier lawn next year if I don’t make amends now. It’s a system of nature, with leading and lagging indicators, timed interventions, and lots of planning.

Truthfully, the tenacity of the dandelion is perhaps its most impressive quality. They grow in the most unexpected places (I found one growing in the root of a tree), sometimes growing sideways, extending deep roots to stick around.

“Growing like a weed” begins to take on new meaning.

I enjoy walking with my kids in the neighborhood and we’re guaranteed at least one walk each day to and from the bus stop. As it relates to dandelions, most of our walks entail a tension between letting the dandelions in our neighborhood follow their nature (to grow and poof) and letting the children follow their nature (to pluck and blow).

It’s fascinating to watch what happens to the dandelions, day after day. For a few days, the flower opens and closes its petals. Then, it closes its petals for good and, with its last push of energy reserves, turns its petals into a seed ball and shoots up into the air to catch a breeze (or a small hand).

Some might look at this ball of dandelion seed as a death knell–a final last-ditch effort of self-perpetuation–but I’m beginning to look at it instead as a cycle of renewal.

Maybe “growing like a weed” isn’t a commentary on the speed of growth or the propensity of children (or weeds) to quickly takeover the things we thought were immutable (though….it’s not *not* that).

Maybe it’s about how children are also tenacious and insatiable learners, tiny seeds of potential that will plant themselves anywhere, drive themselves deep into our hearts, and grow despite the fallibility of their parents.

What Parenting, Leadership, and Gardening all have in common.

I loved this article from 2016 and this article from 2021 about how being a great leader is a lot like being a gardener. Our role as leaders is to focus most on creating an environment for growth. Flowers can’t grow if you pull them out to check on their roots! We must also tend to what the plants need. Sometimes they need shade, or water, or drainage, or sun. We don’t just provide the thing, we change the environment depending on the needs.

Parenting, like leadership, is not about fixing our children or running to rescue them from their problems. It’s about creating the environment in which their innate potential can flourish and grow. This is a challenge, especially when we don’t always see the fruits of our efforts.

I want to hear from you! Leader, gardener, parent, weed patrol–what resonates most? All this week I’ll be themed around some of the challenges moms (in particular, but not exclusively) face. If you find yourself wanting to parent more like a gardener, but aren’t sure where to start, grab some time on my calendar.

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