On Gardening and Childhood Memories
Photo Credit: John Sleeman/Getty Images
My daughter and I were happily gardening the other day, me pulling weeds while she potted some annuals to spread out throughout the yard. I went into a cupboard where I keep my garden tools and came across a stack of terra cotta pots that the kids had painted, oh, probably fifteen or sixteen years ago. I brought them out and Emma said to choose my favourite and she would put a plant in it. As she was potting the plant she said "this is what got me interested in gardening, painting these pots". I was taken completely by surprise, I had no idea.
It got me thinking about our children's memories and what they take with them through life. It seems to me, it's never what you expect it to be. We always have this idea that some days are big and important, like birthdays, anniversaries, family parties, school milestones, but really, it is the minutiae of life that stays with us without our realizing it. Who would have thought that a craft, probably done on a rainy summer afternoon more than half of a lifetime ago, would suddenly seem so freighted with memory and appreciation.
I intuited back then, but didn't entirely know for sure until now, that the hours and days spent together with my kids painting pots, reading books and doing jigsaw puzzles forms the basis of their memories of a happy childhood and also of their emerging interests and personalities as young adults. It proves to me that every day is a big and important day and that you can never predict what very small thing will stand out in a child's memory.
Take the kids to a nursery, or even a grocery store that has a garden centre attached, and pick up some terra cotta pots, maybe two per child, nothing too big, the 4" size will do. Then let them choose a plant or two to pot. Annuals are good because they flower all summer or you may want to give them seeds so they can see the whole thing grow (radishes germinate very quickly).
If it's a nice day, set a table up outside and cover it with newspaper and give them some water based paints and some different sized brushes and let them paint away. Give it a full day for the pots to dry completely, then spray them with a clear sealant so the paint won't peel off when you water the plants. Then let them pot the plants or the seeds and encourage them to take care of them throughout the summer.
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