THE BLOG
09/30/2014 02:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pumpkin Parenting

Last November I tossed rotting jack-o'-lanterns into an unused garden bed and hoped for the best. I occasionally watered it, I occasionally put some compost in there with it, but I mostly left it alone.

This summer I was happy to see huge leaves emerging from the garden bed, and now there is at least one sweet little orange pumpkin adorning our front lawn.

I love this pumpkin.

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With almost no help from me, it formed into just what it was supposed to. I just had to plant the seed, step back, and allow it the freedom to become the pumpkin it was meant to be.

I think of parenting as just that. As a parent, you can fuss over your pumpkin child, watering it all the time, picking off all the other leaves so that your pumpkin kid gets all the nutrients and grows bigger than the other pumpkins; you can pick off the grubs and scrub the leaves with baking soda -- I would imagine with all the books about gardening and parenting, you could put all your time and energy into the care and feeding of your pumpkin, or your child.

Or, you could step back and watch it grow, and love it for exactly who it is. In my experience, this is a good way to get a really great pumpkin.

I was just at a back-to-school night where I encountered a bunch of gardener/parents who were a lot more energetic than I am. This was high school. I would imagine that by the time your pumpkin is in high school, your pumpkin takes care of business, more or less, on its own.

But, oh no. I would be wrong.

These parents wanted to know about every little thing their pumpkins were doing, who they were sitting next to, every single activity they did in class, and even their locker combinations. There were a lot of expert gardeners in there.

The over-gardening I saw at back-to-school night worried me. Here is why: Today
my real-life pumpkin had a problem. The big leaves that normally shade the little guy were covered with a white fungus and starting to die. I intervened. I cut off the infected leaves and I sprayed a solution to help contain the problem. I stepped in to "help," but I am not sure I really did.

Left on their own to find their way, pumpkins and children usually do just that. They figure it out and become stronger in the process. Now that I have stepped in, my poor little pumpkin sits in my yard unprotected by its huge fungus leaves, without the strength of having survived on its own. He seems so vulnerable and alone out there.

I wonder about all those back-to-school night pumpkins. With all the aggressive landscaping done on their behalf, how are they ever going to be able to really grow, to learn how to overcome problems, and experience that feeling you get when you have worked through a difficult situation and come out on the other side, on your own?

So, sometimes pumpkins need help. Maybe pruning the plant and spraying the solution was the right thing to do. Maybe it wasn't. But I do know I have robbed my little pumpkin of the joy of unadulterated growing up. From now on, I will simply love my little garden friend and hope for the best. I think it is strong enough to become a fine jack-o'-lantern someday.

And, as for my other little pumpkins, I realize I may need to prune on occasion -- maybe even spray them with a baking soda solution every once in a while. But I do know that I will also continue to simply love them and know they are strong enough to handle adversity and become some seriously badass pumpkins because of it.

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We actually have fewer pumpkin kids than pictured here

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