Deep Watering Our Children

deep-watering-our-childrenA few months after my wife and I moved into our home, a windstorm came through our town during the night making it difficult to sleep.  The next morning, on my way out to my car, I saw that our 10-foot mesquite tree had fallen over.  I looked around at our neighbors’ yards to see if their trees had fallen over, but mine was the only one that had fallen.  I got closer to the tree to see if I could figure out why my tree was the only one that had fallen over.

As I looked down at the ground where the tree had come up, I noticed a large root ball right at the base of the tree with very few roots extending from the root ball.  I found out that the watering system for that tree was just a small drip line.  Something else that I found out, that I didn’t know before, was that roots grow toward water.  Consequently, because the drip system provided water right at the surface, the roots did not need to grow in order to find water.  The tree turned out to be non-salvageable and we ended up cutting it up for firewood.

The lesson I learned from the tree in my front yard taught me a great lesson about raising kids.

Do you remember your parents or grandparents talking about walking 5 miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways?  Or when they would tell you about getting up hours before dawn in order to get the cows milked and the horses fed every day before they went off to school.  Well, even if those stories were a bit exaggerated, however long they did in fact walk, and however long they did spend taking care of the farm, it was probably longer then kids walk today and probably earlier than kids get up today.

I know that some parents have concerns for their kids’ safety to the point that they are discouraged from allowing their kids to walk long distances alone.  Additionally, the school bus system takes kids to and from school if they live a few miles away.  However, I wonder if some of our fears, and the fact that most of us don’t live on farms, limit the amount of physical work expected of our children today.  Keeping in mind these social changes and adding to them an endless supply of media entertainment through TV, video games, and the internet, I wonder if we are shallow watering our children to their own detriment.

Just like my tree, when the winds came, the root system was not strong enough to withstand the strength of the harsh conditions.  Similarly, if our children’s day-to-day life teaches them that life is easy, they may also fall over (or fall apart) when some sort of hardship comes to them.

The answer – Deep Watering

In order for roots to grow deep into the ground and provide strength for the tree, the tree needs to be deep watered.  As the water settles deeper into the earth, the tree roots grow deeper in search for water and the tree becomes more intertwined and joined to the earth.

Likewise, as we provide our children with opportunities to do things that are difficult, and that take concentrated effort over time, and as we limit those things that require little effort and work, we are in a sense deep watering our children.  We are helping them develop the strength they will need to withstand the harsh winds and adversity that come to them during their lives.

Here are a few articles that can give parents ideas on how they can do some deep watering for their kids.

Overcoming Entitlement: the best thing I have done for my kids thus far

My 4-year-Old’s Addiction: When TV Becomes a Problem for Young Kids


Thanks for Reading

Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW

Child and Family Therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona