Mistaking Children for Spiders, and Pulling Weeds

Sunday night my wife returned from a long (and much-deserved) weekend away. She entered the house and was immediately surrounded by eight little arms, pawing and pressing and hugging (our four children, not a giant arachnid). Their voices were high-pitched and grateful, the incessant chirping of baby birds at their mother’s return to the nest.

Eventually I got a hug. Best for last and all that.

Finally, the excitement subsided. Maile and I walked outside for a moment of peace and also to check on the garden, which after only four days of being ignored had grown an impressive number of weeds.

“I’ll weed tomorrow,” I said, shrugging. But as we started talking, we started picking weeds. Just the big ones at first, the ones that threatened to engulf entire potato plants or knock over the small wire fence I built for the peas. Then, without any sort of spoken agreement, we each started making our way down a row. Mai did the carrots. I took the spinach and lettuce.

And we kept talking. Mai told me about her time at the beach, her friends and the crazy stuff they did. I told her about how Sam got a bloody nose when he fell at the baseball game and how Abra’s allergies seem to have passed for the year. We talked about Lucy’s obsession with The Chronicles of Narnia and the fact that Cade will turn eight next month.

All the while my fingers dug into the wet dirt, pulling out those son-of-a-gun small weeds in bunches. I noticed that some of the spinach was leafy and wrinkling and ready, so I went in for a scissors. The kids followed me back out. Soon Cade and Lucy were helping us weed. Sam and Abra, after knocking too many things over, were banished from the garden like Adam and Eve. They decided to run back and forth through the mulch (in their socks) and watch the neighbor’s dog chase bullfrogs around the pond.

Pulling weeds on a Sunday night – my Anabaptist ancestors rolled over in their graves.

* * * * *

There rarely seems a good time to begin pulling weeds.

“I’ll make time tomorrow,” we say, surveying their extensive cover, marveling at how they’ve wound themselves so tightly around the things we want to keep until the weed is barely discernible from the vegetable plant.

This is only the second year I’ve tended a garden, but I’ve learned a few things about weeds: they’re easiest to remove while still small; if you let them go to seed, they’ll affect you even more the following year; weeding is a much more enjoyable activity when not done alone.

“Tomorrow I’ll stop IMing with that person my spouse doesn’t know about.”

“I’ll quit watching porn, starting tomorrow.”

“I’ll work on forgiving that person. But tonight I’m going to let myself feel pissed off and bitter.”

The fact is, there is only one good time to start pulling weeds. Right now.

8 Replies to “Mistaking Children for Spiders, and Pulling Weeds”

  1. Oh, I do like to enjoy a good grudge. And of course, every time I do, it’s harder to let go of it. And as good as it feels to nurse that grudge at the beginning, it never feels so great the longer it goes.

    Great post, great reminder.

  2. Weeds are definitely like all those things in life that drive a wedge between what Christ want to offer to us. The longer we put off yanking them out of our lives, the harder they become to remove from our life. Enjoyed this.

  3. This will be my third year with a garden. We still don’t have anything in because there’s been no break in the rain for 3-4 weeks. I got it tilled in early April and since then it’s been rain every other day.

    One thing I’ve noticed about gardening as opposed to other hobbies is that it provides its own test for how much you actually care about it. If you like the idea of painting more than you actually like painting you might take a month off from it and no one will no the difference as long as you periodically paint something. But a garden shows the signs of neglect within 24 hours. You can’t hide from it. If you want it to be healthy you will put in the work when it needs it. If you don’t, it will show.

    1. Great analogy, David. There was no getting around it for us last summer, when weeks of neglect led to some unfortunate results in the corn sector…

  4. “There rarely seems a good time to begin pulling weeds.”

    Nicely done piece,Shawn. I’ll haul this one around for the day. Maybe longer. Crab grass in SoCal is a special sin…er “weed.” Goes deep and convoluted before it pokes up deceptively green among the flowers. I just posted Our Story (www.gendads.com) after sharing it in church. 45 minutes to cover 45 years of living in unearned Grace together. The prep took us to the woodshed in recalling all the flowers and crab grass in those years. I like the way you sneaked the truth in between potatoes, peas, and children.

    You got it right:”The fact is, there is only one good time to start pulling weeds. Right now.”

  5. Again, didn’t see that one coming. That was great. If we run with your analogy, perhaps dealing with weeds can actually be a fun thing to do with the people we love.

  6. Give Cade and Lucy a penny per weed pulled and you will be amazed at how many they pull. My Dad did that one year when Burnie and I were 8 and 10.

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