When we moved into the house we’d rented for our four-year stint here in Australia, I admired the lovely rose bushes in front, sure, but with a good dose of anxiety. I hadn't ever done roses before and these were clearly someone else's pride and joy. Oh, the pressure!
Sure enough, my anxiety was justified. After a month or two the roses were lagging. I did considerable hand wringing. Were we feeding them right? Did they need a special fertilizer? I watched YouTube videos on the correct way to deadhead and prune roses. I called an irrigation specialist to come check the sprinkler system for the yard, particularly the drip irrigation hoses installed beneath the roses' mulched beds. The sprinkler guy reassured me that all was fine.
But, clearly the roses weren’t so fine! They were wilting under my care. I took the roses and their failure to thrive personally. After a while it felt like they were doing this to me, not the other way around! Surely they were purposely exposing my fraud as a wanna-be-gardener. Some evenings I’d walk past other gardens in the neighborhood on surreptitious rose surveillance, peeking out of the corner of my eye at their Roses of Thriving Loveliness. What was their magic secret?
Turns out that what my garden needed was more water. More water! So simple and yet its simplicity flummoxed me for fourteen wilted months. In desperation one day I dragged a hose out (despite the fact that there were supposedly plenty of drip hoses watering the roses beneath the ground) and soaked the ground with water. They seemed to perk up a bit so I did the same thing over several more days until, one day with water streaming down my wrist and the scent of roses in the air, I thought: Oh. Sometimes the answer is just more water. Duh.
You can probably see where this is going. Metaphor alert! Insert parenting/gardening analogy of your choice here.
Here's mine: More often than not I feel less pro gardener, more flailing wanna-be trying to keep these borrowed roses growing under my care. It’s daunting. It’s experimental. It’s supremely tempting to compare my sometimes struggling garden with everyone else’s carefully cultivated show-garden families online, down the street, or on neighboring church benches. But those are completely different circumstances and equipment. My garden needs what it needs.
Also this: Sure, solutions are not always so simple or straightforward as more water. And I might not even have all roses in my metaphorical garden--there might be a cactus and an orchid in there, too. Different water needs, different blooming calendars. Parenting means figuring out what that looks like, exactly, in your own garden. But sometimes maybe it really is as simple as more water, returning to the basics of compassion, time, connection. Maybe in that way we're each the gardener and the water in our own plots.
This is not a guilt thing. It’s a reassurance: You’re enough.