So what do you do when you are an avid flower gardener but don’t know squat about planting vegetables, and your five-year-old comes home from his day with Grandma and is full of excitement because a nice lady at the nursery let him pick out a package of carrot seeds?
You find a small sunny strip of soil next to your lobelia, you plant the seeds according to the directions on the package, and you pray like mad that they will, in fact, grow.
Honestly, I felt like I was in the picture book The Carrot Seed. Luke was so convinced that they’d grow. I was less so because while I’m pretty good at making impatiens and roses bloom and grow, I have zero track record with anything edible. Should I prepare him for the chance that they might not grow? I wondered. Is it worse to be a killjoy and tramp all over the tender shoots of his excitement, or is it worse to say nothing and then have him be bitterly disappointed if nothing comes up?
In other words: Do you steel yourself for the worst, or do you throw yourself recklessly into the glorious vision of a positive outcome?
I’ve faced this question a boatload of times in my life, with everything from dating to writing projects to starting a family. And I’m not sure there’s a one size-fits-all-answer, but I do know that things tend to turn out okay if stay neutral and avoid pessimism. They work out even better when I get the courage to lean, ever so slightly, to the side of hope.
So I erred on the side of optimism. I said nothing to indicate my own lack of confidence in my root vegetable-nurturing capabilities, nothing to hint that perhaps the soil in which my flowers grow happily might not be the best place for carrots.
Little green shoots eventually appeared; I avoided weeding that part of the flowerbed, unable to trust that I’d not pull up the wrong thing. We kept watering and watching and monitoring the feathery foliage that grew imperceptibly bigger. And I hoped and prayed that the story would end like it does for the little boy in the book: with a fat, glorious carrot that he carts around in a wheelbarrow, the root vegetable reward for his stubborn faith.
Yesterday, we harvested. The excitement was palpable. We didn’t get mega-carrots like the boy in the book does. But we did get a bunch of small delicate ones, unmistakably carrots, grown in our own soil. The boys liked the tiniest ones best.
We washed them off and had them for dinner. They were snappy and sweet.
The whole experience was sweet, really: the planting, the watering, the harvesting, the eating. And for me, maybe the sweetest part was that my decision to keep my doubts to myself turned out to be the right one after all.