Parenting Teenagers – How to Water a Teenager

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Have you heard of this guy, Monty Don? He’s a super famous gardener in England and I love watching his shows so I can pick up some gardening tips from a pro, while simultaneously being ridiculed by my children for watching gardening shows. In one of the episodes a man is asking Monty how often he should be watering a newly planted tree in his yard. Monty advises the man to actually not water the tree too often. He goes on to explain that if the tree is watered too often, the roots will grow shallow. If you water the tree less often, the roots are encouraged to dig deep down into the soil to retrieve the settled water. Deep roots make for strong trees. Monty’s watering approach got me thinking about parenting. I want my kids to have deep roots. I want them to grow strong…but that requires me to think about what makes for a strong tree.

Now, I’ve considered this analogy and I’m not going to make my kids dig deep for love. I want them to receive and feel love any time they need it. But advice? If I can dole out advice like Monty doles out water, that has the potential to have a big impact on how my four teenagers grow. 

Our family is at the stage right now when the decisions the kids are making are big ones. The children are no longer just choosing what color backpack to buy, or what sport to play in the fall. They’re making decisions about relationships, how to cope with stress, who they can trust in their lives. If I’m watering my kids constantly with direction, advice, and opinions, that doesn’t make for a strong tree. That makes for a tree who can’t think for itself—a tree who doesn’t feel trusted to make the right decisions for itself. I love the idea that, as a parent, rather than showing up with the watering can or my big fat hose every day, I can say something once and the kids can reach for the water if and when they need it. 

Sometimes my anxiety about an outcome can trip up my watering cycle. I can become so worried that the tree isn’t going to make it without me that I just keep watering and watering. I appreciate Monty reminding me that being forced to dig down for water is actually a good thing. I know I feel the most grounded when I trust myself, and that trust has come not from listening to all the noise on the surface, but from digging down into the meaningful knowledge that runs much deeper within me.

Trees know where to find water when they need it. In this stage of the “gardening” game, my job isn’t to constantly water—it’s to trust in the trees that I planted.

All this talk of trees, can you believe that it’s October in a few days? These trees are-a-changin! And while these trees let go of their leaves, next week we’ll be chatting about something else we can let go of! Curious? Well, you’ll have to tune in next week to find out! Until then…

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  1. Megan, in thinking about the coming birthdays, I realized your next post will include not 4 but 3″ teenagers” plus a 20 year old!!
    Talk about change – the seasons and the “trees” are changing far too rapidly!!

    • I know, right?! It was just one full year that we had 4 teens, now we’re in the 20’s!
      It’s such a joy to witness them getting older and wiser – now I can go to THEM for guidance, it’s WONDERFUL!

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