You Can’t Force Bulbs or Children

You Can’t Force Bulbs or Children

Written by Cara Sue Achterberg

Every Christmas my mom gives me an Amaryllis bulb. I love growing the freakishly tall flower with the brilliant red blooms. It brightens my kitchen and helps to tide me over until spring.

A few years back I tried to force some other bulbs – narcissus, crocus, tulips. It was a grand failure. A few flowers bloomed, but most poked their little green heads out of the bulbs and changed their minds. I tried planting them outside in my garden. Sadly, they were never the same. The formerly forced bulbs could only send up a few green leaves, but no flowers.

I’ve discovered a corollary between forcing bulbs and forcing children. In much the same way as my failed bulb attempt, I have entered in to an exercise in forcing my daughter to play her saxophone. Like the bulbs, in the beginning the instrument held great promise of beautiful, effortless sounds to come. She struggled to learn the fingering and squeaked out note after note until she could string together We Wish You a Merry Christmas. In much the same way I planted my bulbs on rocks in pretty pottery dishes, fantasized about the blooms to come, and waited. There is more work than you would imagine to forcing bulbs, just like there is more work than my daughter anticipated in playing the saxophone.

But spring has arrived, and the saxophone is not so much fun anymore. Practicing is no longer novel, it is hard work. Progress has slowed to a trickle. I have threatened to remove the instrument, taken away computer time and play dates, withheld dessert, and layered on the guilt, but my daughter, just like those crocuses, will not be forced. So I am letting go. I’m leaving this one to her.

She may yet be a concert saxophonist playing in Carnegie Hall or she may be happy to squeak along in the marching band or she may lay down her instrument and walk away. Whatever she decides will her be her decision and not necessarily my desire. I cannot force her to bloom when I want her to, she’ll have to do that on her own time.

Once again my children are teaching me how to parent. Like my un-flowering bulbs, I can’t force my children to do anything. Well, technically perhaps I can, but it won’t be a real bloom. Like a forced bulb it will last for a short while in the wrong season and then be gone. And like a forced bulb, it might never bloom again. Better to provide my children with sunlight and rain and good nutrients and let them bloom on their own in their own season.

Cara AchterbergAbout the Author: Cara Sue Achterberg is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of three, who lives on an amateur farm in South Central, Pennsylvania. When not chauffeuring nonpaying clients or operating a large order laundry service, she can generally be found out of doors amongst her overly ambitious gardens, pounding down the path in her sneakers or doing her best not be unseated by her favorite horse, True. She is the author of Live Intentionally: 65 Challenges for a Healthier, Happier Life in which she shares stories, resources, recipes, and inspiration for living life on purpose. You can find links to her blogs and inspiration for teen writers on her website Cara Writes. She is also on facebook and twitter. Say hi!



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