Landscaping Tip: the Grass Always Grows Back

I’m sure like you, there are times I wish I could live my life in reverse.  Such feelings of regret are part of the human condition and (hopefully) compel you and me to improve.

The fragility of life is regularly brought close to home by tragic shootings, kidnappings, and freak accidents that affect the lives of more than just two-dimensional faces on the TV.  Innocent secondary victims, like you and me, were certain “these things happen to others” . . . but then September 11th occurs, or Elizabeth Smart gets kidnapped, or the boy down the street drowns at a family reunion at a local lake.

My heart is particularly touched by the pain of those who lose children suddenly, unexpectedly.  As I try to put myself in their shoes, I think of the time I spend and the direct influence I try to have with my own kids.  Like you, I’m periodically reminded of the “weightier matters” of life, as I realize that my priorities are not always what they should be.

Erma Bombeck, in a column entitled, “Mike Will Come Back, Won’t He?” aptly illustrates my point.  She relates the following:

When Mike was three he wanted a sandbox, and his father said, “There goes the yard.  We’ll have kids over here day and night and they’ll throw sand and it’ll kill the grass for sure.”

And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

When Mike was five, he wanted a jungle gym with swings that would take his breath away and bars to take him to the summit.  And his father said, “Good grief!  I’ve seen those things in back yards, and do you know what the yards look like?  Mud holes in a pasture!  Kids digging their gym shoes in the ground.  It’ll kill the grass.”

And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

Between breaths, when Daddy was blowing up the plastic swimming pool, he warned, “They’ll track water everywhere and they’ll have a million water fights and you won’t be able to take out the garbage without stepping in mud up to your neck and we’ll have the only brown lawn on the block.”

And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

When Mike was twelve, he volunteered his yard for a camp-out.  As the boys hoisted the tents and drove in the spikes, Mike’s father said, “You know those tents and all those big feet are going to trample down every single blade of grass, don’t you?  Don’t bother to answer.  I know what you’re going to say – ‘It’ll come back’.”

Just when it looked as if the new seed might take root, winter came and the sled runners beat it into ridges.  And Mike’s father shook his head and said, “I never asked for much in life – only a patch of grass.”

And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

Now Mike is eighteen.  The lawn this year is beautiful – green and alive and rolling out like a carpet along the drive where gym shoes had trod; along the garage where bicycles used to fall; and around the flower beds where little boys used to dig with teaspoons.

But Mike’s father doesn’t notice.  He looks anxiously beyond the yard and asks, “Mike will come back, won’t he?”

Stories like these refresh our parental perspective.  They also tend to spawn other stories, like the one about the farmer whose two young sons milk the cows daily but never seem to get the hang of it.  Observing their clumsy, inefficient work, a neighbor glibly chides the farmer for failing to use harsher techniques to make the cows better “milkers”.  A sharp correction from the farmer sets the neighbor straight: “In your view you’re greatly mistaken, for I’m not raising cows, I’m raising boys.”

We’re all moved by the personal tragedies experienced each day by the children who die or are otherwise harmed – and family and friends who must live with those tragedies.  Little do the parents of such a precious child know that as (s)he leaves home that fateful morning that they are saying Good-bye.  Tragedies are a “cheap” reminder for the rest of us to regularly practice the “Three T’s of Loving Children: Tell them, Touch them, and Tumble with them.

Carpe Diem, my friends.  The Cat’s in the Cradle.

 

Steven M. Gentry, PhD., is a Child & Family Psychologist and the Executive Director of
Psychological Assessment & Treatment Specialists in American Fork, Utah