Goodness knows I love Pinterest. I find crock pot recipes and garden advice that I actually uses…and then I have about a zillion other boards of fabulous craft projects, home renovations, and kid activities that I will honestly never ever do.
The weather here in Wisconsin has been slow to warm up this Spring. We had snow in April and the forecast even hinted at the possibility of ice pellets and wet snow this first week of May. After the winter we have just endured I am willing to take a few ice pellets and sleet while messing about in the patch of mud that will one day be a garden. *A Pinterest tip I learned about gardening is that you shouldn’t work clay soil when it is wet but I just can’t help myself; it has been soooo long since we saw mud!*
The biggest accomplishment for the garden so far has been putting up the rabbit fencing around the entire space. I know those cute fluffy wild rabbits are out there just waiting to eat my hard earned lettuce and carrot tops and I am prepared to go full farmer mcgergor on them if need be. Thanks to Pinterest I have the basics for how to skin and dress a rabbit just in case it comes to that.
After the last fencing bit was finished and I raked inside while the dogs and daughter romped outside, a sudden truth hit me. Even if we lived in a place where people didn’t have to worry about rabbits in the garden (is there such a place?) I would still put up a simple fence around the veg garden to keep other garden hazards out.
Toddlers, I’m talking about you.
Sorry all those Pinterest moms out there who have decorated fairy houses out of upcycled bleach bottles, painted pvc pipes to make giant versions of croquet sets, or spent time (not to mention money) on creating “playscapes” for their kids and then taken the time to photograph each step with written instructions and post it on the world wide web for the benefit of all, I will not be trying out any of those cute clever ideas.
Because I don’t want to spend my kid’s childhood orchestrating play. I want to be able to say “Go outside and play” and then have the kids go out and play. The easiest way to do that is to have simple ground rules. 1. Don’t run out on the street. 2. Don’t get in anyone’s car. 3. Don’t go in the veg garden. The easiest way to follow those rules are also with clear boundary markers – a fence works nicely. Here is the fence, on that side of the fence is the vegetable garden, when you are big enough to go in there and help mommy weed, plant, and harvest, but for now you cannot go in there by yourself.
Harsh though it may sound to be happy to put up fences to keep your own kids out (do you remember what it’s like to have a toddler?), it’s also a simple concept even for a toddler. And then the best part is that every other part of the yard, everything except for that fenced area, is free game. Puddles, mud, sticks, chasing leaves, chasing squirrels, chasing robins, chasing imaginary squirrel robins that look like leaves, and collecting pebbles are all endless fun. None of those things make it on to Pinterest because, let’s be honest, they don’t make interesting photos. Who wants to read a blog post about how a mom spent a meaningful moment with her children by coaching them on how to be kids?
At the moment the most fun imaginable comes from this box of dirt. In an futile act of desperation I tried to grow a few french breakfast radishes in there last fall just a day or two before the first snow arrived. Maybe it’s the subtle peppery residue of immature radish roots, the grit of the peat moss, or simply the fact that it is not a healthy meal prepared by mom, but this box of dirt has been this little one’s favorite snack place for days. She buries things in there and digs them out, she scoops leaves and rocks from the yard and plants them there only to transplant them later, but mostly she just eats it.
She does all that while she is on one side of the fence and I am on the other. We both are outside enjoying the day in our own way, one as an adult working to provide food for the family, and one as a child learning as children do best. It is a good reminder that not every moment of the day needs to be at Pin level, it doesn’t have to be planed or programmed, taught or guided, and it certainly doesn’t need to look nice, it can be as simple as a box of dirt and a hand full of mud.