This year we decided to sod.
It was dense and healthy when it was laid and despite bouts with mold and sod webworms, it has grown nicely with the exception of the areas that have been exhausted by feet, the trotting of dogs and the trampling of children. I have raked in cotton burr and weeded regularly to encourage the runners to take off. I’ve under and over watered. I’ve bent down to examine the tired, yellowed blades. These spaces remain bare, waiting for something to fill in, like conversations I'm not ready to have. I stare at them from the deck, helpless.
This is also the year we decided to medicate.
I grew up in a family where we handled our problems quietly and without much ado. We grew out of things, we didn’t really need to see the doctor for this or for that. It was just a cut, just a cold, just a rash, just a fever, just a phase. No need for stitches or swabs. Nothing wrong that Alka-Seltzer and a day of rest couldn’t right.
We were rough and tumble. The opposite of fragile. And I think, as the youngest of this bunch, I evolved even more so as the years went by. Solving my problems independently, rarely requiring consultation or support that couldn’t be obtained over the counter.
Our garage, which also served as my father’s workshop, was filled with hazards. Sharps and splinters buried in loose piles of sawdust. I remember a time when I stepped on a nail and limped inside to my mother. She pulled it out while trying not to roll her eyes at me as I asked if we should go to the doctor for a tetanus shot, and went back to talking on the phone.
Years later, I find that I parent similarly. Sink or swim. Brush yourself off and let’s get moving. Hurry up and please stop whining.
But it wasn’t working. At least not with one.
She is accident prone and processes slowly. If we are 50 mph, she is 10. She is often occupied by a web of thought and wonder that she has great difficulty getting out of. And as bright as she is, she suffers in school. For 3 Christmases, she asked Santa Claus to bring her something to help her focus. You can imagine how hard it was to see that written out on a list, in elementary script, between requests for kittens and games. She could see what we would not.
I resisted. I clung to the belief that she would emerge from this phase. That she could limp along with a bruised foot and still make it to the top. Even as she slipped and slid.
And that is how it goes sometimes. You cannot or will not notice what needs help until it begins to slip and slide in front of you. Or, in her case, falter and fail. So I set down my toughness and stepped into a little fragility. We asked for help and found it in the form of a time-release capsule that she takes, everyday, at 6:30am.
We are all different, ourselves and our children. Each needing different things, needing help in different ways at different times. Each of us, a different point on the beautiful bell curve of delicacy and strength. As parents we have to learn to interpret and navigate this spectrum in ways we weren’t anticipating so that all of our children can thrive. I had to take apart my understanding of fragility as weakness and put it back together again, under more sensitive light.
Sometimes it just is what it is. To change a path is merely to create wear in another place. The path of least resistance will always be the most worn, the least reparable, bald and bladeless save for the most ruthless weeds.
But if you’d prefer green everywhere, then you must notice the parts and places wearing thin. You must believe that something can grow there. You do what you need to do to bolster the dry, sandy earth with something soft but hardy, patient and efficient with nutrients. And with that you can recover what is lost with clover and moss. A little help, a proper prescription.