Happy Family Gardening

By Becky Cashman,

I love this time of the year, with all the promise of a new garden. I like planting seeds as much as the actual harvesting of food that we’ve grown. It reminds me of the early days of gardening with children, and I pulled this article written about 5 years ago. I still laugh on re-reading it, the glory and frustration of gardening with little people.

Here you go!

I am not new to gardening with kids. I have witnessed two entire seasons where every green strawberry was systematically stripped and consumed. I dealt with the season that all seedling markers were removed. I have watched lettuce seedlings buried head down, plants pulled up, and seeds buried far, far underground. But watching the kids forage is a delight. They know the plants, can scout a good cherry tomato, clear the snow peas in a sitting, and even pull up carrots. Most everything is consumed directly on site, still warm and essentially unwashed.

Today as we were planting bean seeds (good size for little fingers, one tray for each child- own seed packet each) a loud and highly energized debate sprung up around the outraged four-year-old’s desire to not have eight-year-old help him water his seeds. Both four and eight-year-olds defended their corners staunchly. Both behaved quite badly. And both were right. Problem was I felt annoyed, and I mean really upset. I walked away, banned them from the kitchen while I prepared dinner. When I did called them to dinner- I asked them WHY do you have to act so horribly when we were doing such an amazing, magic thing planting seeds?

For the consciously minded of you, you’ll spot two big gaps. First, WHY is not a high quality question. Better questions for moving forward are How or What. Second, I myself was acting horribly. Indeed.

I ate dinner, then excused myself and went to sit outside at the scene of the show. By this point it was dark and cold out there- but the night clear with a moon and plenty of stars. I still felt angry- and angry that I felt angry- and angry that I felt angry that I felt angry. Whew!! I did not get what I WANTED, and I did not respond well. I wanted Happy Family Gardening. I’ve let go of a lot of myths in my journey of mothering, but tonight I discovered this one alive and well. It probably sits up there with Happy Family Pancake Morning.

I had no idea what the lesson was to be learned, but it was clear there was one. So I sat and talked to the moon and stars. I told them how I felt, I asked some how and what questions. I stated that I was ready to do something new. And then I realized that all of us wanted the same thing, Happy Family Gardening, just different versions. And all of us responded the same way when we did not get what we wanted… a howl!

Of course the kids were territorial and scrappy, we were dealing with seeds and water! They understood the magic and wanted it to be as perfect as they pictured it, just as I did. Then, I felt lighter. I laughed at Crazy Family Gardening, and understood that it would indeed happen again. Just like Happy Family Pancake Morning often degrades into who gets to stir the mix first.

I get it, just now. Acceptance is a fundamental of living in the moment. I cannot live in the moment if I create myths of how it should be. So, I’ve exposed another fantasy. They are not so hard to let go, once identified. The trick is seeing them in the first place. I’ll let you know how I go next time around. Here’s to gardening, however it comes.

Ps. Five years later, I’m happy to report that my children let strawberries turn red. Each season since has brought more growing, foraging and sometimes howling, but always celebrating. Happy gardening to you!


Hi, I’m Bex Cashman, founder of goodbye PRODUCTS. As a natural product maker, I get to share the things I care about.  My children, John, business and garden keep me fully engaged in a work of bringing forward the best of myself, and what I know. I believe in humanity, regardless of our displays of dysfunction. We can re-learn the truth about ourselves. We are natural beings, and we feel better when we acknowledge and live in tune with that truth. Put down your cell phone and pull up a sunset. There is joy to be discovered.

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