Why The World Needs Children


IMG_2551 When I was 42, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. My husband and I had by no means recovered from the trauma of our first experience with babies. We'd had twins, who were now four. Nora Ephron has famously compared having a baby to setting off an explosion in a marriage. She was only talking about one baby. Two babies…the metaphor has to move to something nuclear. Somebody is always unhappy about something. Nobody ever sleeps.

Four-year olds, however, are lovely, and my husband and I had been feeling a sense of reprieve that now instantly appeared to be a cruel joke. We lamented the fact that our twins hadn't had an idyllic babyhood, since they'd been fighting for their mother's arms from the second they were born. And now they were going to have to split the parental attention three ways.

So when we told our children one night at the kitchen table that they would soon have a baby sister, we did it with heavy hearts.

"That's WONDERFUL!" said my son Milo, with a huge and simple smile. "That's great, mommy!" said my daughter Georgia, who hugged me ferociously.

Jeff and I looked at each other. The morally superior pair had just revealed themselves.

The uncomplicated nature of their joy was the really humbling thing.  It's amazing that anyone can make a baby!  How lucky to have a baby sister!  Babies are delightful!  Life is about to get so much more interesting!

Adults, with their infinite capacity for fretting, need to be reminded of such fundamentals.

I had the same experience on Wednesday, at the first meeting of the Lake Avenue Elementary School Green Team for the 2009-2010 school year.  We'd put in a garden at the school in the spring. It's a group project. I would have made some different planning
decisions regarding the fence, the size, the amount of compost ordered,
the lack of a sprinkler.

But I organized the planting party, and as the most experienced vegetable gardener by far, I kept an eye on the garden over the summer.  Still, it was a really bad year for vegetable gardens–the rainiest, coldest summer I can remember.  I had so much work in late July that I never managed to do some things I intended: weed, edge, rip out the gone-to-seed salad and broccoli and replace them with fall crops.  The cucurbits got mildew when sopping wet weather was followed by two dry weeks when nobody got a hose from the custodian.  When I looked at the garden, I could only see what was wrong.  

But Wednesday morning, six or seven of the shorter members of the Green Team showed up and saw the mature garden for the first time. They filled bags full of cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil, beans, lemon cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, and radishes, shouting in amazement as they picked and pulled. These kids weren't grousing about how the pole beans seemed a little sparse–they were thrilled to be harvesting the fruits of their labors.

Their excitement at the transformation of their seeds and seedlings into something they could eat was really moving. It seemed like a miracle to them. It is a miracle.


  1. What a delightful post! You are so right about seeing things through children’s eyes giving us jaded adults a new perspective. The Green Team is a great idea for connecting children with gardening and growing their own food. All schools should emulate it.

  2. I have an eight year old and she continues to help me appreciate our garden in every way. She loves to harvest and quizzes me as to whether something I serve is from our garden or not.

  3. Yup. I’ve never gotten a huge bounty from my garden veggies, other than the rogue Roma that planted itself and just never stopped producing for two years, and the yellow pear that wouldn’t quit for a year. But it’s fun no matter what you get, and great to eat anything you’ve grown yourself.

  4. Thank you so much for this post ! I garden with my tween daughter & son & often get glimpses of our marvels & successes through her eyes – the salad greens that in infancy taste like “spicy walnuts”, the power of pea plants pushing through the soil, the miracle of carrots & potatoes (food from underground !), and beauty in the massive garden spider that stretched its web from one corner of the garden to the opposite ( I swear !).

    Now I’m embarking on another adventure: working with the science teacher in our elementary school, I get to help plan a school garden. I can’t wait to see if my kids’ classmates have the same reactions yours did !

  5. Thank you for the feel good post. So how are you doing with baby #3? 🙂 We too had a rough go of it with ONE, who is now 4 yrs old, and have put off having a second…maybe we too will be surprised with our next round.

  6. Becca, Baby #3 is now almost 7, and not just beautiful and smart, but also funny. We’re very grateful life shocked us that way.

  7. One of the local horticulture professors told me he became interested in horticulture when, at the age of six, he figured out that each of those little peas in the pod could make another pea plant. So you never know where a child’s interest in gardening may lead.

  8. I don’t have children of my own (my grown stepchildren do ask me for gardening advice though). But in the early ’90s, I had a lovely friendship with the little girl next door, who used to come over with her flower press. She got so interested in plants and flowers that she soon learned to tell many perennials just by their foliage, which astonished me. (Her own mother was hopeless in that department, even when the plants had flowers.) Anyway, one day when she was about eight, she said to me: “When I grow up, I want to be just like you – with a garden, a dog and no kids.” (She was the youngest of three, so I suppose she took her lumps many a day.) She’s now in graduate school, and I’m pretty certain that one day she will have children.

    Thanks for a terrific read, Michelle.

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