Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How does your garden grow?

One of the first yard projects we undertook after moving to our new home 2 1/2 years ago was to carve out a space for a vegetable garden. Much to my vegetarian delight, summers (and bellies) are now chock-full of juicy tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and crunchy cucumbers. Not to mention the zucchini... and the endless batches of zucchini bread that follow! This year, Noah was thrilled to get in on the planting action. I'm not sure his 23-month-old mind comprehends that the seeds he sprinkled in the soil will eventually end up on his dinner plate, but what toddler would pass up the chance to play in the dirt? He was all too happy to "work" side by side with his Dad, elbow deep in muddy bliss, while his very pregnant mom "supervised" from a nearby lounge chair.

So while browsing the aisles at the store today, it occurred to me I should get him a watering can. You know the kind I'm talking about: child-sized, bright yellow plastic, perhaps a daisy for a spout? The one I had as a child probably cost about $1, and even factoring in a few decades of inflation, I figured this would be a simple and inexpensive purchase. Not so fast.

It all started out well. I waddled over to the toy department and with relative ease located the aisle marked "Kids' Gardening." A thought flashed in my mind that an entire aisle seemed like overkill- how much gardening do today's kids really do? But I pushed it aside and steered my cart toward the technicolor display. A cursory scan of the aisle turned up nothing resembling the picture in my mind. Oh, there were watering cans... the first one I saw was shaped like a hedgehog and carried a price tag of $10.99. Sticker shock combined with confusion- what on earth does a hedgehog have to do with watering the garden? Then there was the more moderately priced ($6.99) whale-shaped vessel. But I wasn't looking for a sea creature. The higher shelves brought scary discoveries: The Garden Gun! Yes, for just under $20 your child can blast and shoot his way to hydrated soil. Sorry, but we're trying to grow veggies, not conduct military exercises. But I think my personal favorite was the Spin-Me-Round Weed Wacker with "Guaranteed Wacky Water Action!" I won't even speculate as to what that is, why it is necessary, or who would pay $29.99 to take it home.

Though I left the store with no watering can, my enthusiasm had been somewhat doused. We live in a society that simultaneously laments the loss of innocence for today's youth, yet steals what's left from every store shelf. And I'm just as guilty as the next poor sucker. My son has toys that go beep, buzz, bang and blip. Toy cell phones, mini-computers, and I'll even admit to considering (but not purchasing) an MP3 player for his crib.

Try as we may to fight it, I think most of us suffer from a case of "Keeping Up With the Joneses-Family Edition." I grew up in a town where everyone had everything, but my immigrant parents, despite being the two most generous people on the planet, were blissfully unaware of the perceived importance of designer labels and "must-have" gadgets. We didn't wear the coolest clothes, we didn't have the latest toys, and there was certainly no car in the driveway when we turned 16. It seemed like torture growing up, but now that I have my own family I realize what priceless lessons those were. I hope and pray my kids will one day feel the same- that they will grow up in a house short on "stuff" and big on love. For now, I'm going to poke some holes in the bottom of a red plastic cup. After all, Noah still needs a watering can.

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