What crocuses can teach you about parenting


You may be thinking:

  1. I love crocuses! I wonder: what can they teach me about parenting?
  2. Oh God, is she about to make a comparison between parenting and the return of Spring? I may gag on this tired metaphor.
  3. What the hell are crocuses?

Here are the answers:

  1. Read on, kindred spirit!
  2. Yes, I am. Metaphors get tired because they’re so busy being useful.
  3. Crocuses are bulbs that flower in early Spring (or, in Portland, Oregon, late Winter, when most everything else is dormant).

I got an email the other day from a mother of an active toddler. She was distressed over the lack of control she feels over her life.

Her lovable cyclone of a child has blown away her sense of who she was before she was a mother. The time and attention she used to spend on her relationship with her husband, taking care of herself…all gone.

I had no idea having a baby was going to turn out to be like this at all, she said.

I remember that feeling. Oh, do I remember it. But you know what? I’m not there anymore. My son — who I used to call the “Tasmanian devil” because of the chaos he left in his wake —  is now a handsome, strapping young man. A joy to be with, more ballast than storm now.

What I couldn’t have known when he was a toddler, which I know for sure now: the chaos of those early years was a season of parenting.

I don’t say this to minimize the hardship or confusion of this season. It’s all-encompassing and real and painful and exhausting. But it’s a cycle that is meant to come…and go. To something easier? I hope so. To something different? Certainly.

You can trust that times of growth and upheaval will most often transition into something softer and more flexible.

What does this have to do with crocuses? Well, here in Portland the damp, grey winters feel interminable. There comes a day in late January when you think you will never again see blue sky, green leaves or a dry sidewalk. Right when you’re about to trade in your entire wardrobe for clothing that’s either waterproof or down-filled, you catch a spark of yellow or purple peeking through the sodden leaves.

The crocuses have started to bloom.

Crocuses are unassuming, modest little flowers, only a few inches tall, but they burst into your consciousness because they provide such contrast to the colorless landscape. These are tough, reliable plants, and yet somehow their appearance surprises me every year.

Crocuses remind me to trust that seasons will and do change. The storms won’t always be swirling. The chaos won’t always envelop everything. You can trust that times of growth and upheaval will most often transition into something softer and more flexible. And that toddlers will grow up to be handsome, strapping young men.

If you’re immobilized by a winter storm right now – whether in life or in parenting — do what you can to keep warm, stock the pantry, and take care of yourself and those around you. It’s all you can do sometimes. But know in your bones that the weather – and the seasons – will change.

A version of this post first appeared on my Babble Voices blog, The Accidental Expert, in 2013.

Photo credit: Mohammad Amiri