Landscaping with Children: An Update

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Before you read any further, check out Part I of this story.

I know you’ve all been wondering, so an update is long overdue. The landscaping project is still going wonderfully. Thanks for asking!

It’s nice to be seen for once. Our house is tucked away at the end of a cul-de-sac, so we don’t get much casual traffic. And even when we had a large number of people over—earlier this month for a kids’ birthday party—literally no one commented on the upgrades to the front yard.

It might look like my four-year-old forced me to cram the flowers together haphazardly in one corner of the flower bed, but that’s called layering, people! Haven’t you heard of it?!?



I even casually brought it up to one guest when the conversation trended in an appropriate direction. I don’t like to force things or fish for compliments, but it came up organically.

“Hi. How are you?” I said, shaking the guest’s hand. “Did you notice the front yard landscaping? Any comments on it you’d like to make right now?”

I’m really not in it for the accolades, though. Gardening is in my blood. It was what I was born to do.

Maintaining the garden (I call it a garden now instead of a yard, btw) is definitely challenging with children, but we manage. We had a few minor incidents early on where I turned around to find the toddler holding a small plant in her hands that she had pulled up by the roots, and the boys constantly argue over which of them gets to water which plants and when, but otherwise, things are fine.

And there are fun moments. Like when my four-year-old and I raked out a new flower bed and were immediately transported back to the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

“Look at me, Papa,” my four-year-old suddenly exclaimed. 

I turned in his direction, pausing my weeding of the front garden, to see what was going on. There was something unusual about the way he was talking. His voice had a strange lilt to it. Also, he was apparently calling me Papa, which was odd because he’s never done that and, as far as I know, he’s never even seen an episode of Little House on the Prairie. 

This strange speech pattern kept up the rest of the afternoon.

“Papa. I have cleared this land for our crops. Now, we will have food for the winter.”

But, of course, just as we were finding our gardening groove and, apparently, nineteenth century diction, the Florida heat and humidity suddenly descended. The pleasant morning and evenings were gone, replaced by a constant mugginess that presses against our bodies and tangles itself in our hair like bats trying to nest.

And so, we’ve mostly retreated inside. But even when we are on a gardening break, the landscaping fever never truly recedes.

The other day the four-year-old was painting on a rainy afternoon.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked, calling me into the dining room from the kitchen to admire his work.



“Oh my, yes! It is very beautiful,” I said. “Also, what is it?”

“Our backyard!”


“See. It’s brown everywhere! Dirt...leaves...beautiful.”

He paused and then started pounding the paper with the tip of his brush. Making brown swirly spots on the drippy, brown background. 

“And there! Those are all the holes!”


Well, it seems like I might have a bit more work to do. Not during the summer, of course, but this fall, watch out! I’m coming for you, back garden.

If you love this post, I have some good news. My book, Fatherhood: Dispatches From the Early Years, is available at Amazon. You haven't read it yet, have you? Be honest!