Pruning rosebushes seems easy, in theory. Â You find an outward facing bud and cut just above it. Â You make sure the cuts angle slightly downward. Â Â You remove the old dead canes and any that cross others.
Over the weekend, I finally tackled the four rosebushes in the front yard. Â Gloves on, shears in hand, huge gardening compost bin at the ready, I mentally reviewed all the rules above and got ready to prune.
And, just like I do every year, I found myself confronted with no small amount of self-doubt. Â Â Because there is theory, and then there is reality. Â And the reality is that sometimes you just can’t find an outward-facing bud. Â Sometimes, you aren’t sure which canes are really dead. Â Sometimes, the branch is so close to the house that you can’t get the right angle and you just have to cross your fingers and snip anyway.Â Every year, I am faced with all these situations and I just have to muddle through as best I can.
This year, it hit me that the act of pruning is uncannily close to the act of parenting (except for the sharp implements, of course). Â I started pruning nine years ago, when we moved into this house, and up to that point I’d had zero prior experience with rosebushes. Â Parenting wasn’t so different. Â As the youngest child in my family, I had spent precious little time around babies, and knew next to nothing about the care and feeding of infants. Â In both cases, I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. Â In both cases, I’ve had more experienced partners to advise Â me (namely, my mom). Â And in both cases, I often feel as though I’m flying blind, faced with situations that look nothing like the diagrams or directions in the books. Â There is the cane with no branches or visible buds; what do you do with that? Â There is the toddler who won’t respond to rewards, reason, or timeouts; what do you do with him?
Like all parents, I want to raise my kids right. Â I want to help them become compassionate, honest, responsible, curious, intelligent, spiritual, happy human beings. Â (As the mother of boys, I also want them to grow up to treat women right.) Â In my more vulnerable moments, I feel as though I’m messing up, making mistakes that will stunt their growth. Â There are Â parenting guidelines and philosophies in my mind, but there are many times when applying them is far less neat and easy than I would have expected. Â Those are the tough moments. Â They are the moments when all I can do is take a deep breath, trust my gut, and make what seems like the best decision given the circumstances at hand.
And is it enough? Â I certainly hope so.
It’ll be a while before my boys are finished growing and blooming. Â They are very young shoots, these little guys, so it’s hard to imagine a time where I can sit back, look at them, and think, “Hey, I guess did a good job.” Â I hope that moment does come someday.
Until it does, though, I will trust my gut and look to my roses. Â Every winter I wonder whether I’m pruning them right, second-guessing myself at every snip. Â And every spring they explode into gorgeous bloom, exuberant and fragrant and beautifully forgiving of my mistakes. Â Every spring they astonish me with their color and splendor, as if to show me that maybe, just maybe,Â I’m doing a better job than I think I am.