Jack and I picked a crisp day to plop ourselves down on the ground in the front yard and plant some hyacinths for early spring. I could sense his confusion when he discovered planting flowers really meant digging holes, inserting a bulb bearing no resemblance to a flower, and then covering it once again with dirt.
“Where are the flowers, Mom?” he’d ask. “We have to wait until the snow melts,” I replied, realizing he failed to process such a seemingly interminable delay of gratification.
Planting bulbs is something I’ve done for years. Daffodils and hyacinths remain my favorites. Daffodils, for their bright cheery color and hyacinths for their delectable fragrance. Both for their early burst through the soil, sometimes even before the snow has melted.
After a dark winter, I need every sign of life I can get.
In my seasonal affective disorder, I muddle through the winter, seizing upon every 40 plus degree moment of sun.
I shovel the driveway after each snowfall, grateful for the chance to get my heart rate moving and enjoy the silence and awe of freshly fallen snow.
I bake rolls and cookies, infusing our home with warmth and an open invitation for friends to join us.
I drag myself out of bed each morning long before the sun rises to shuttle kids to and from school and activities. I retire long after the sun has gone to bed, feeling spent from a long day of fulfilling obligations and drudgery.
Then I wait.
There are days I sit back and wonder, much like Jack after planting bulbs, at the point of it all. Will the hyacinths ever make an appearance?
Indeed, winter is not my favorite, though there are bright spots to be found.
I saw a quote on Facebook recently that inspired me to reframe my relationship with winter. It read, “If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”
In my life, this quote might read, “If you choose not to find joy in the teenagers, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of teenager.”
You see, teenagers resemble for me that hyacinth bulb in winter. I cultivated a spot for each one, inserted them with their pointy ends toward the sun, then covered and watered them to ensure the best possible outcome.
Likewise, I find myself shaking my head constantly as I endure the winter of raising teenagers.
I hold my tongue, hoping the lessons of years gone by managed to sink in. That the ground I have worked so diligently to cultivate provides an adequate environment for the beautiful bulb to thrive.
Then I wait.
I muddle through the years where each interaction is on their terms, where contributions in the home are regarded as optional, where adversarial relationships abound when standards are upheld.
I enjoy the moments of laughter when happy moods happen to collide in a universe of hormones. I eat up the chance to connect when they take me up on my offer to read to them as we did in younger years. I wake up bright and early to make breakfast and dabble in conversation as each daughter walks out the door, one by one. I buy and make mountains of food to keep them happy when they invite friends over. But mostly, I stay out of the way.
Indeed the efforts are staggering and the payout seems minimal.
But much like the hyacinth, the growth beneath the surface cannot be underestimated. And spring is on its way.
Truly, the instant gratification of planting annuals barely scratches the surface of the joy one feels when that first hyacinth breaks through after a long, cold winter.
And then another. And another. Within weeks my garden is bursting with color and sweetness fills the air. A gentle reminder that efforts made long ago and endurance in between were well worth it.
Winter can feel like an eternity. But spring always comes. And hope will see us through.
Previously published on the author’s blog
P.S. We love the wisdom in How to Talk So Teens Will Listen, and Listen So Teens Will Talk. Don’t have time to sit and read? Listen here, on Audible.
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