Growing up, my mom would say that we were growing “like weeds.” I never really liked the comparison. Weeds. Weeds are unwanted. Weeds show up when you are trying to do something good and make something beautiful. They show up to take up space and water and sunshine that is meant for the good plants to enjoy. They strangle the good plants and stunt their growth, sometimes killing them altogether.
While I didn’t like the comparison, I did, however, really like weeds. Some of them were so beautiful to me. The fact that they had the nerve to be cute, completely useless, and dangerous all at the same time was fascinating. I liked the little yellow dandelion flowers the most. You could spend hours collecting enough for a tiny bouquet, but before you could run inside, they’d be wilted and dead. They refused to be captured. If you left them alone you could enjoy them, but if you plucked them up and took them somewhere else, they would die. The introvert in me identified completely.
If I was going to be a weed, I was going to be a dandelion. Beautiful in my own right, and better when left alone.
As I got older, and learned more about dandelions, I found out that they aren’t weeds at all really. They are actually extremely useful plants. They don’t need fertilizer, attract bees because they are a source of nectar and pollen, are important food sources for birds, have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to treat all manner of ailments in humans, and don’t require great soil to grow in. There are dandelion farms where they are grown commercially. If you do decide to grow them as a houseplant indoors, fertilizer and good soil makes them even better.
When Jesus told the parable of the weeds , he couldn’t have been talking about dandelions.
I like to think that dandelions aren’t really weeds at all. While they can be mistaken for weeds, and labeled a nuisance to advance the “weed killer” agenda, they aren’t REALLY weeds in the true sense – not at all like the weeds Jesus would have burned up.They have weed like tendencies in that they don’t need a lot of care to grow, and a lot of times they show up uninvited.
Being a mom of Caribbean descent, I notice a lot of weeds showing up in my parenting style. The trick is deciding which ones are true weeds that come to take away from all the goodness that comes with being a parent, and which ones are dandelions. Several of the things that tie us together as products of Caribbean parents are true weeds.
The flying belts and pelted slippers, the hugs withheld and praises denied, the mocked dreams and secret shames, those – those are the true weeds. We tend to hold on to some of them because they seem uniquely Caribbean, like they are part of the culture. When you talk to people with a Caribbean background, many can relate. But is it Caribbean parenting, or is it just the weeds?
But those are the weeds that must be controlled, watched for, pulled up, poisoned, and burned.
Sometimes, it is hard to see which ones are the true weeds and which ones are the dandelions. How can we tell? I like to think that I turned out alright. We all do. We are the beautiful plants that grew despite the weeds trying to steal our sunlight and siphon off the nutrients meant for us. Maybe all of us didn’t grow as tall as we should have, or spread out as wide as we should have, but we made it. We made it and now that we are planting and growing our own flowers and plants, it is our duty to recognize the dandelions in our parenting style.
One of my dandelions that others mistake for a weed is me telling my kids they don’t have to go to college if they don’t want to. When people ask me, “so what is so and so doing?” and I say, “working,” the confusion on their faces tell all. They think that’s a weed. My middle child is quick to tell people that he might not go to college. Some people have taken it upon themselves to try to convince him otherwise, to uproot that weed. That was one of my mom’s dandelions too – not a typical Caribbean view of education at all.
While I did choose higher education, I knew I didn’t have to. I had to do something – of course – but it didn’t have to be college. When I listen to my kids talk about their big ideas and their plans for the future – businesses, inventions, community building – I see that taking college off the table as a requirement has opened their minds up to so many possibilities. I do require that they become licensed to do something by the time they turn 18 (my oldest is a 19 year old real estate agent), so education and skill is a requirement, but not college.
While I have managed to uproot many of the weeds that I identified over the last nineteen years as a mom, I still have some true weeds in my parenting style that are hard to get rid of. I don’t always listen as carefully as I should. I know that is a true weed. Nothing strangles a kid’s creativity like a parent that chooses a quick, “uh huh,” and a “really?” over true interest and useful feedback.
I remember all the times when my mom was actively listening to my ideas, and it felt like my words became more colorful and my ideas even better each time she asked a question that was truly in reaction to something I shared with her. I also remember all the times that I had to compete with the television when I had a great idea that I wanted to share. I knew that I had to get it all out before Mystery! came on on PBS. That theme song still haunts me.
For my kids, it is Facebook. They get most of their ideas and thoughts out while I’m driving and they know I’m not able to be on Facebook. I realize now that I got most of my ideas out on long drives with my mom too.
Now that I am nineteen years into parenting, I am constantly tending the weeds, and trying, despite the aforementioned “weed killer agenda,” to keep my dandelions and kill just the true weeds.
When I look at the lifecycle of the dandelion, everything is so clear. You see the leaves first, then the dandelion flower. It attracts the bees, the birds, and the people seeking its healing powers. It provides for a time, then the bloom closes. When it reopens, it is a seed head. You know what the seed head is, right? It is that adorable fluffy white ball on the stalk that instagrammers can’t wait to capture their kids blowing. The seed head. All the greatness that was in that dandelion takes to the skies on the wind, hitches a ride on our pants as we walk by them, grabs on to the fur of animals, and finally settles on a place to grow. It might not be the most fertile ground with the most nutrients, but it makes it.
That’s another thing that makes the dandelion easy to mistake for a weed – how it spreads. I hope that the dandelions in my parenting style spread to my kids, grandkids, and my community with weed like efficiency, but with dandelion efficacy. And the weeds? I pray they are pulled up by the root. Killed. That they end with me. And if I have to leave them to grow alongside my dandelions and purposeful plants like in the parable of the weeds, so be it. As long as they get burned up in the harvest… that’ll work too.
What are some of your weeds? Your dandelions? Let’s chat about them in the comments.