In my backyard there was a large natural area for some time. Over the past few summers, I have tried to reclaim most of it and replace it with a nice grassy lawn. The work is slow and hard sometimes, clearing small trees and unwanted growth, then raking the ground clear. Next, the nurturing begins. Sowing the seeds. I have been instructed by experts to prepare the soil carefully, distribute the seeds evenly, cover them, and then water religiously. The process demands daily attention.
They will grow stronger and stronger
Over the past few summers I have been successful in slowly reclaiming my yard section by section. Along the way, I have learned that the first year is critical. If I get that right, if the seed gets a good start and takes root, the next spring it will come back stronger. Then, in each successive year, the grass will grow stronger and stronger. The nurturing continues, but getting it right from the beginning is the key. Often I have seen others wipe out large portions of their own lawns that failed because the soil hadn’t been prepared properly in the beginning; or the owner hadn’t taken the care that first year to weed and water daily. The option of fixing the problems became too great, so they simply ripped out the old grass and started over.
There has been an ongoing debate over whether to continue the prekindergarten programs in public schools. When I read about this debate, I think about my grass. I remember that when I have given the seed a good start, within a few years it is green, strong, and almost self-sustaining. Sure, I still need to water and fertilize it, but it grows and flourishes. I wonder how much of the early years for children are like the first year for my grass. I wonder if we continue to focus our efforts on that time of our children’s education, if they too will grow stronger each year and become self-sustaining adults someday.
A Balanced Life
Robert Fulghum caused the whole world to pause and think when he said, “All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” While that is an attention grabbing title for a book, the concept is true. When you look closely at his thesis, you find that he is reminding us that in kindergarten we learn the fundamentals like, “share everything, play fair, don’t hit people and clean up your own mess.” He reminds us that we should live a balanced life and that
when we go out into the world we should hold hands and stick together. In that first year of school, we learn how to approach life outside our home, how to get along with others and the basics for success. I wonder how many of the problems in our middle and high schools might go away if all the students had learned those lessons in kindergarten and continued to live by them as they had been taught.
The first time I coached a micro soccer team, I struggled getting my young players to line up to run drills and to listen while I gave instructions. I recognized quickly the difference in those players who had already been in kindergarten where their teachers had taught them those basic skills. To this day, I am amazed at how teachers transform the chaos of groups of small children into calm and order. Because of their efforts, I was able to teach the children how to play soccer. I am thankful for the teachers’ patience and wisdom in knowing that being able to line up and to listen are the stepping stones for the future success and fulfillment of those young souls. Even at my age, I can see that if I did not know how to line up or to listen when someone speaks, I would be at a great disadvantage every day.
And, so the same applies to us as Be There Dads. Our responsibility to teach the basic lessons early in life is as important as teaching the seemingly more important ones later on. Learning how to line up is as important as learning how to drive. Learning to listen is as important as learning to lead. Learning to share is as important as learning to compete. Learning to clean up is as important as learning how to win.
Sowing the seeds early, then nurturing them in those first years makes all the difference in the way our gardens grow. For Be There Dads the work starts early. There are many stepping stones along the path. Your children can not skip steps and start in the middle. They must find the first steps as well as the last. And although the first steps may seem simple and small, without them they can never get to the rest. Each is part of the path of life’s lessons. Be There Dads help their children find each one.
When you think about spending time with your children at a young age, think about my backyard. Attention and nurturing in the beginning will help them blossom and grow in that great big garden we call the world. For Be There Dads, it is never too early to get started.