Teaching is planting seeds in young minds. Learning colors, counting and ABCs lifts the sprout up above the ground. Changes come quickly; standing, walking, talking; each day more exciting than the last – the seedling begs eagerly for its next lesson and growth spurt. We hustle to enrich the soil, be it grit or soft clay, with exploration and life lessons, renewing its growing matter often to encourage our sprout to stretch and strive.

Later lessons need loosening of soil as a young person chooses a path – toward the light? Safe in the shade? Teachers erect fences to weed out behavioral outbursts, but we refrain from overwatering. We want our young adults strong and capable of independence even in gritty soil, little rain and the dramatic storms of erratic teenage weather.

Teaching elders is different. The tree is grown, set in its ways, thinks it knows everything it needs for life. Now educators must prune here and fertilize there. We nudge and lop and encourage some branches more than others.

Old trees can be magnificent if they’ve had the right help along the way:

Seeds to sprouts,

Confidence to canopy,

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Solicitude to splendor.

Motherhood, too, is all about growth and grit. Some days bring jubilation in our seedlings’ small victories; others bring despair as teachers tell us how far behind a sprout is in school. We add the fertile soil of reading aloud and hiking in fresh air, and we water our little ones with bedtime baths and tender tears.

We gather up our genetic heritage, our life experience, our best judgment as we donate our own selves to perpetuation of the species. As our children grow, we grow, too, learning humility, pride and heartfelt devotion to those creatures we’ve nurtured through drought and delight.

As sprouts become mature plants, we recognize a new role for mothers. We are the elders, observing, not interfering, praising but never pressing our adult offspring, who may or may not have become apples fallen far from their trees.

And the day comes, if we are fortunate, when our offspring become the elders who cultivate us with practiced hands, cutting here, fertilizing there, so we can have our own moments of majesty before the chainsaw reaper gathers us back to the grit to begin the birth of seedlings once more.

 

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