In my backyard garden I put up small fences around many of the garden boxes to keep out the feral cats and the raccoons. Inadvertently, they are now (more or less) keeping out a third destroyer of vegetable garden delights – my almost three-year-old. His motivations are heartwarming. He is not digging for grubs, tearing out anything in his way. He is not looking for a good bathroom. He is actually looking for a tasty snack.
The other morning he says to me, “Mommy, I am going to check if the carrots are ready.” This means pulling up the tiny, itty, bitty things only to tell me that no they are not ready, but that they taste good. I know this because the previous day, after harvesting a few larger carrots together, he realized how great they are fresh out of the ground and thought he would sample some more. This was after stripping the pea vines bare, taking down a few of the vines along the way.
While my six-year-old enjoys and appreciates eating the fresh garden produce, she has lost much interest in the actual gardening. While I work, she creates mud pits and story lines with her little animals. Not gardening, but good stuff all the same.
The almost three-year-old, on the other hand, has taken a great interest in the garden. He loves to water, sow seeds, and harvest. He helped with the broccoli in the community plot a few days ago and ate his share on the way back home. So while I may lose a few pea vines or carrots along the way, I have to sit back and remember that one of the big reasons I garden is for them. The garden is a place to know your food and I am reminded that that is exactly what is happening when he pulls up a teeny, tiny carrot or takes down the entire pea vine while wrestling off a pod. He is learning in that messy, trial and error, experiential way.
The kind of learning that sticks. And the lost carrots and pea vines don’t feel so much like a loss anymore.