The beautiful bunches you see above are hydrangeas, and they haunt me.
When we lived in California I fell in love with those flowering bushes.They were everywhere around Palo Alto and in all shades of glorious blue, purple,pink and white.I loved their exuberance, their lack of shyness, their bold yet restrained beauty. They could quietly enhance a space while in their pots or take over an entire wall of a house with their extravagance. I was in love with them, really. Naturally, I tried growing them.
I failed.Again and again.
Now I am no garden wizard but I am pretty handy with more than the basics. I have been successful growing a small vegetable and herb garden year after year, revived dying roses and saw various perennial flowering plants through their seasons. But not the hydrangea. I tried it outside, in different parts of the yard and varying degrees of "sunny-ness", different fertilizer, different amounts of watering. The longest I had them last was a few months, then they died. I tried them as indoor flowers and they died within two weeks.Yes I did speak with experts at the garden store and followed their recommendations.The result? More dead hydrangeas on my hands. So I gave up on them. And now you are wondering why on earth I have rambled on about flowers this Friday...
My kids,after the last burial of a dead hydrangea, asked if I would get more and I responded, "No, I don't think so." The look on their little faces was a bit perplexed and I realized they had not seen me give up on something before. Hmm, difficult parenting moment ahead.
With much hem,hah,mmm and some words in between I tried my best to explain to them that yes, I was giving up right now, BUT only because I had tried everything I thought was reasonable for this goal of growing these flowers I loved in my yard. How did I know when to give up? Not sure; I guess it was some sense deep down that it was time to stop killing hydrangeas and throwing away money. But how did I know to stop after five attempts, why not after 2 or 3 or 10? That was harder to explain, and as they asked, "why don't we try another time?" I found it difficult to easily illustrate how to know when to call it quits versus keep trying, and why some things in life are worth pushing for while others are not necessarily so, even if simply based on timing. How do you explain that to kids? I want them to know for instance that that leaving an abusive relationship is not failing or giving up but instead is a positive move of survival; that walking away from a job that makes you miserable may in fact be infinitely better than sticking it out there for the rest of your career; that perseverance should not be mistaken for willful stubborness and inability to reevaluate or admit a mistake.
I'm still working on the best wording for that reasoning years later but hope in the intervening years I have managed to explain it better to my rapidly growing children. As a general rule I want my kids to persevere, not to quit--this should be their lives' modus operandi. It was instilled in me as a child, and took root with some stubborn personality traits to support it. But with maturity I have come to know that in truth, sometimes you do have to call it quits for some reason, and that should not be seen as "failure" necessarily but instead an honest reassessment of a situation with all its good and bad, of timing, of your own skill and resources.
And just maybe instead of killing hydrangeas year after year, you channel those efforts into nurturing some wicked roses that make you smile as much as those hydrangeas would have years ago.