- This summer I read Ed Hallowells book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness and one particular image stuck with me ... he likened the raising of children to the planting of a tree.
- Parents as the farmers, children as the young trees.
- "The farmer picks where to plant and adds the right fertilizer and supplies water as needed, prays for good weather, pulls out the weeds ... but stops short of fiddling with the roots, allowing them to grow on their own ... "
- I believe that the image of your child as a young tree working to establish roots is one that may help you this new school year as you strive to find the right balance between your parental involvement and the development of your child's independence
- As I was reflecting on our job as parents analogous to a farmer planting a tree- I became intrigued with the similarities and decided to do some research on the best practices of tree planting
Some advice for growing a healthy tree:
Find the right location - a tree needs to be planted in an environment particularly suited to it unique needs and a location optimal for their potential growth. You are here tonight as you believe that St. Margaret's Episcopal school is the right place to plant your child.
Dig the right size hole - The most common mistake when planting a tree is a digging hole which is both too deep and too narrow. Too deep and the roots don't have access to sufficient oxygen to ensure proper growth. Too narrow and the root structure can't expand sufficiently to nourish and properly anchor the tree. I believe you are here because you embrace our mission - educating the hearts and the mind of young people for lives of learning, leadership and service and you feel strongly that a balanced and multi-dimensional program is best for your child. We believe strongly that at the middle school level the hole needs to be wide enough to explore new opportunities and not so narrow as to become singularly focused on one area at this stage in their development.
Give them time to readjust - transplant shock - Young trees should be able to support their own weight, but when they are transplanted, they often need time to reestablish themselves. We are all experiencing a bit of transplant shock this week as we readjust to the pace of school and the demands of a new grade level.
Provide the right resources - Insufficient root development can occur if trees are over or under watered, they can be impacted by improper fertilization. It is also unhealthy to create a situation where there is competition between roots. Our job as educators and as parents is to provide our children with the resources they need, without overdoing it and drowning them. Our desire to provide the very best as parents often gets out of hand and we give them too much or expect too much too soon- there is in fact no "miracle grow"" which will make it all happen faster.
Limit the staking - Tree staking is never done with the intention of harming a tree. Staking is usually done with love and with a desire to promote root and trunk growth and protect a young tree from harm. What some tree planters do not understand is, rather than helping a tree develop root and trunk growth, improper tree staking replaces a supportive trunk and root system with an artificial support. Your child will need some support and an occasional "stake"" to keep them growing but this support should be as minimal as possible so as to promote the growth from the student, rather than dependence on the "stake".
Leave some bare space around the tree - make sure you leave an area of bare space around the base of all trees. Your children need a little space in which to stretch, relax, grow and develop- find some safe avenues in which they can demonstrate their independence and emerging maturity
Monitor - But be careful that you do not confuse the bare space with complete autonomy. A failure to monitor a tree and correct a problem as it arises is the number one reason for failure to thrive. You must be vigilant about your role as parent in monitoring your child?s social and on-line life- have access to their texts, their computers, their postings on-line. Monitoring this is not easy but do your best to know where your child is and how they are portraying themselves to the world on-line.
Realize that growth is taking place underground - The framework of major roots lies below the surface. Building an effective root system is critical for development- it is a store-house for essential food reserves needed in the spring, the system which absorbs and transports water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree and most importantly Roots are the anchor for the tree above ground. The growth that you are working to promote is grow that you really cannot see right now. But if you focus on nurturing and developing the roots and focus less on the leaves and the fruits during this stage of your sapling's development you will be blessed with a child or a tree who can stand on their own, use their roots to find needed resources and can withstand natures inevitable challenges.
We are farmer's in this season of life together and with our partnership I am confident that our world will be a better place. Filled with a forest of amazing young men and women living secure, sustainable and rooted lives of learning, leadership and service.
Middle School Principal