Dateline: 21 June 2007
I do not have a lot of regrets in life but I do have a few. My number-one regret, by far, is that I planned my family.
Marlene and I have three boys, ages 12 (almost 13), 16, and 19. That three-year spacing did not happen by accident. The birth of each child was “scheduled” according to my plans. We stopped having children after three because I didn’t see how our house would accommodate, or my income support, more than three children.
Marlene was willing to have more children. We should have had more children. God would have provided. I realize that now. I thought I was being wise by planning my family and limiting it. But my wisdom was worldly, and I was clearly being selfish. Don’t anyone tell me I wasn’t being selfish, because I know I was.
Had I been less selfish, more faithful, more trusting in God’s provision, and more obedient to His calling, we might have had a girl, or two, and that would have been pretty special.
I was reminded of this for a couple of months early this year as Marlene took on the job of watching our neighbor’s little girl while both her parents worked. The little girl is four years old.
I was initially reluctant about having Marlene watch this little girl. My wife is, after all, so busy with her different projects and managing our three boys. And the boys are so rough and tumble (frankly speaking, they can be savages). Nevertheless, for a few days a week, the delicate little girl came to our home.
It turned out that my boys were gentle and patient with the little girl. They demonstrated a facet of their character that we rarely see at home. It was refreshing and encouraging to watch. My sons helped Marlene by entertaining the little girl, and keeping a protective eye on her. They lavished her with their attention, and she loved them for it..
For Marlene, watching the child was like having the little girl she never had. Marlene put the four-year-old to work helping to fold clothes and make meals in the kitchen. She was an eager and surprisingly good helper.
When it came time to plant potatoes in the garden, James and the little girl came out to see me. I asked her if she wanted to help. She nodded her head enthusiastically. I showed her a small seed potato cut in half and explained that the flat side goes down. I told her a big potato plant would grow out from the little piece of potato, and the plant would make lots of big new potatoes. She listened intently and I thought to myself, what an amazing story.
Then James took charge. He told me he would show her how it was done and they would work together to plant the potatoes. So I turned my attention to marking and furrowing two more rows, but I was watching and listening, and I eventually went to get my camera.
The picture at the beginning of this story shows James and the little girl planting potatoes. Here’s another picture:
I was so pleased to see my youngest son patiently instruct and encourage the little girl. He even made a spacer stick for her, as shown in this next picture:
The two of them slowly but surely planted two 75-foot rows of potatoes. Then they took a break and went back to the house for a strawberry smoothie. Or, as the little girl says, “smoovie.” I finished up planting the third (and last) row, then hoed soil over all the rows, and headed back to the house to see if there was any of the cold, sweet, blended yogurt-and-fruit drink left for me (there wasn’t).
Marlene stopped watching the little girl a few weeks ago, when the farm market season started. But the little girl will be back (she lives just up the road) and she will get to see the potato plants that are now growing out of the pieces of seed potato that she and James planted. When we dig potatoes in the fall, we will give some to her parents. She will see and taste the harvest.
For the little girl, it was her first experience planting potatoes. It may have been her first experience planting anything. Her parents do not have a garden. I wonder, how many modern children in America grow up having never planted a potato, having never seen and tasted the fruit of their efforts, having never participated in the amazing story. Way too many, I suspect. And that is a pity.
I must admit that four-year-old girls were once something like aliens to me. When the little girl in this story first came to our home, she was shy and reticent around me. I wondered if she was old enough to talk. She soon realized that I was not an ogre. By the time her last day at our house came, she was not only carrying on conversations with me, it didn’t seem like she would ever stop talking. It was a cute thing. It was a delight.
Lord willing, my children and their wives will, in their time, be less selfish and more fruitful than I. Lord willing, I’ll live long enough to see a good mix of grandsons and granddaughters. Lord willing, I’ll have a healthy body and sound mind and be able to share my life with them, to listen to them, to create lasting memories with them, memories like, maybe, planting potatoes, and then going to the house for one of Grandma’s fruit smoovies.
CLICK HERE to read the follow-up story to this one: Digging Potatoes With a Little Girl