My Green Thumb

7.2.07: The care and keeping of kids


The other day while I was working, our babysitter Wendy quietly plucked dead flowers out of our window boxes. She poured water into the dry, cracked soil, coaxing our petunias back to life. I hadn't watered them in ages. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was too busy. Maybe I got distracted. Maybe I thought the rain would just take care of it?

I've never been very good at keeping plants alive. I planted petunias because they're, allegedly, "amazingly easy to grow."

We have a fish named Bingo—our only pet. Our "training" pet. Bingo is the reason why we don't have a dog. Because every few days, we'll realize that no one has fed him. Because his bowl is full of murky water. Because we come home from a weekend away fully expecting to find him floating belly-up. It's nothing short of a miracle that Bingo is still here with us today.

Do you see where I'm going with this train of thought?

Sometimes, I am completely freaked out by the fact that Will and I have kids.

It's overwhelming to think that we've been entrusted with these two lives. Sometimes, I feel safer knowing that Wendy is here, watching over our shoulders, offering her quiet, gentle wisdom, a drink here, a snack there.

Granted, our haphazard ways with fish and flowers don't translate directly to the way we care for our kids. If anything, it's just the opposite. Every cell in my body, every synapse in my skull, is completely tuned in to the responsibility of raising these kids. To see them grow to be happy, healthy adults is my mission in life. My purpose on earth. But, all too often, I feel like I'm out of my depth—outnumbered by a million unseen forces beyond my control. And I think that if I let my guard down for a single second, the danger that's possibly been lurking around the corner, lying in wait for my kids, will pounce.

It's a jungle out there

When I became a parent, the world became a scary place. I can panic at the sight of a paint chip. Mosquitoes have turned from mere bugs into blood-sucking, disease-spreading parasites. Ticks are my nemesis. I'll throw my body between my babies and a microwave, shield them from the rays of the sun. The sound of screeching car brakes can make my heart stop. In stores, I'm watching suspiciously for kid-snatching strangers. At home, I nurse Charlie and remember an article about breast milk being riddled with toxins, from the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink. Lately, I have been looking over my shoulder for the specter of a "mysterious virus" which has damaged a little boy's heart here in Gloucester, leaving him in a coma as his parents stand watch at his bedside, willing him to live.

Last night, Will and I laid in bed listening to Charlie cough, cough, cough, and then—suddenly—stop. One of us would jump up in a panic every time the coughing stopped. Long after Charlie's breathing had finally become steady, and Will's breathing had finally become steady, I stayed awake, listening...willing Charlie to breathe.

Whether because of our efforts, or in spite of them, our kids are doing just fine. They're growing like the proverbial weeds we just went into our garden to pull. As my insides tightened up in knots over our tick-infested backyard, Julia happily watered the garden. She held the hose over the green shoots poking their way through the earth and said: "Mama, plants need lots of water, sunshine, and love to grow."

She made it sound so simple. Water, sunshine, love. Is that all? At the root of life? Even I could handle that. Then, even I stand a chance at keeping our petunias blooming. Our fish, swishing. Our kids, flourishing.

Still, it's nice to know that Wendy is here, gently helping to coax life along.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 7.9.07: My Cherubic Charlie