Carol Sbordon Bannon ponders how her mother's lesson in gardening was a great prelude to the trials of parenting.
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." (Matthew 13:3-8)
This is one of my favorite Bible passages!
When I was growing up, my mother always had a large garden. All winter she would pore over seed catalogs, looking for new and better plants to order. Come spring, she prepared the soil, removing small stones, and secured fencing to protect the harvest from small animals and rambunctious children. When it was time to plant, strings were laid down to ensure perfectly straight rows, seeds carefully placed, dusted with soil and gently patted down, then covered with hay. Summertime found her weeding daily, caring for her plants.
In fact, I can still picture her kneeling in her wide-brimmed hat inspecting plants or pulling weeds.
Due to her careful management, we enjoyed bumper crops of vegetables and herbs: tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, pea pods and many more. As a child though I often resented being asked to help in the garden and became extremely efficient in dodging that particular chore. Yet, when my husband and I bought our first home, the first thing I said was “We need a garden.”
But unlike my mother, I did not have a green thumb. Where it looked effortless to her, I struggled. I purchased seeds and tirelessly prepared the soil. I mapped out straight rows and planted the seeds and seedlings. But when Mom visited in August, my plants were on life support.
Surveying it, she asked, “What kind of fertilizer do you use?” When I gave her a blank look she laughed and said, “Oh honey, fertilizer is needed to grow healthy plants. If you plant and neglect regular fertilizing, nothing will grow except weeds. And, you have to keep up with it.”
Maybe I should have spent more time with her in the family garden.
But I came to realize her lesson in gardening was a great prelude to the trials of parenting. It does not come easy; you have to keep at it. And the soil in which you nurture your family is so important. Families need "fertilizer" to nourish, helping the children grow into their fullest potential. As mothers we are given the "seed," these precious children. As Catholic moms we have the privilege to supply the best of all fertilizer: Faith!
The seed that God has planted
None of us are an accident. We were planted by God at a particular moment, for these times. And I was blessed! He supplied "healthy, rich soil," allowing me to grow. He did not place me in rocky soil, or one in which the thorns of modern life would choke out His Love, His teachings.
And God did not stop with just planting me.
Throughout my life He has supplied nourishment, the fertilizer, for my faith to flourish. I was raised in an environment where faith and religion were inseparable from everyday life. I was taught how to pray and to share the love of God with others. I have had amazing teachers and priests who refused to let my faith waver even in very dark days. And to this day I am surrounded by people who are in love with Christ.
Some families make it look easy, but in reality, everyone at one time or another will experience despair. We may do everything we believe to be right and good, and still feel we could have done better. We pray our children succeed, but we become discouraged when the success they achieve may not be what we or society values. As with every garden, you may set out to "grow" a particular plant, only to realize the final produce was not at all what you expected.
Our children will not always grow into what we envision them to be, what we pray they will become or achieve … and that is okay. God has His own plan. But like a garden, children need good fertilizer to realize His plan for them. Teach them perseverance and prayer. It works for both parenting and gardening.
Trust in His Plan and the final harvest will be wonderful.
Copyright 2023 Carol Sbordon Bannon
Images: (top, bottom) Canva; (center) copyright 2023 George Andrade, all rights reserved, used with permission.
About the Author
Carol Bannon currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She is a wife, mother, grandmother to seven, substitute teacher, and an active supporter of the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI). Carol is the author of Handshake from Heaven and Our Family’s Christmas Elf. She and her husband love to spend time boating on Cape Cod and traveling to new harbors.