How Gardening Has Helped Me Grow As An Exceptional Parent



It is summer, my favorite time of the year. I have loved this season since I was a little girl, though there were a few years after Michael’s autism diagnosis that I started to dislike and even hate summer. I used to watch him unravel with the loss of structure, predictability and the heat. It broke my heart over and over again to see him suffer and not know how to help him.  Oh how the heat used to affect him. In my more bitter times before I saw what God and the Universe were showing me, I believed I was being punished and mocked by ironically dreading my favorite time of year each time it happened. That’s when I started seeing a pattern. I started seeing what I could do to get strong, be positive and be ready for this difficult time of year for Michael. He even has given me fair warning about the difficulties in the last few years by talking about his fears and worries of summer camp, the upcoming school year and other things.

As he has gotten older though, the challenging behaviors have changed. His reactions, his ability to self-regulate is getting better. This is both because I am showing him strategies to manage his emotions, and I have learned to manage my own too. Summer time does not equal Mommy time one hundred percent when camp is not in session. He is slowly learning to find ways to amuse himself, and when I do take him places, I make sure to tell him, I need his help or cooperation in waiting for me to get other things done or get him to help me.

One of the things I do to unwind besides my usual list is gardening. Gardening for me is pruning the massive unruly forest that is my yard and that I love to pieces. It truly represents me, lovingly cluttered, a kind ear to others (so I’ve been told),  and the possibilities of all the beauty that will  unfold with the right care. I am slowly tending to my own inner garden as I am to my yard. It is a slow process, kind of like therapy was for me several years ago, the opening up of my wounds, the work to be done which was hard but gratifying, and the result which is me seeing where I can still grow and get better, and where I was fine all around.



Plants come back to life, a diagnosis is just a label. It does not predict what or who that person will be, and clearing up clutter is cathartic and can help you move forward. It doesn’t surprise me that I became a gardener when I was pregnant with Michael. I felt life growing inside me and I wanted to tend to life. And then tending and helping Michael to grow while he helped me to grow, made me tackle my crazy yard with a gusto that each year fills me with excitement. Outside I find peace, God, release, joy, birth, death and rebirth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Exceptional Parents, what activities bring you back to yourself and help you find peace and rebirth? Whichever ones they are, make sure you do them regularly. Your child will be better when they see you caring for yourself. They will also learn to find their own activities that complete them as an individual. Until next time.

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