Monday, May 11, 2009

On Cultivation

About three months ago Sweet M was watching television with a headset on and she turned to me and said, "Hey M___, have you ever heard of a p-alarm?"

I said, "A p-alarm . . . not sure . . . what do you mean?"

"You know," she said, "An alarm that helps kids who have my embarrassing problem?"

"Oh, a pee-alarm," I said. "Yes, I've heard of a pee-alarm. How did you hear about a pee-alarm?"

"I saw it on TV."


"Can we get a pee-alarm?"

"Sure honey, if you want one, we'll get one."

"Whoo-hoo," she hollered, "no more diapies!!!"

Diapies, of course, was our baby talk for the night time pull-ups that she went back to after we spent a year in an abortive attempt at night time continence that she was then incapable of. That was a miserable year. With flawed advice from a well-intentioned friend and our visions of upcoming sleep-overs and cute nightgowns and all of that, we pushed and pulled and suffered . . . loads of laundry, interrupted sleep, and her own disappointment despite our efforts to be supportive. I wrote about this painful interlude several years ago.

Once we corrected our own efforts -- once we stopped trying to push Sweet M to be in a place that she wasn't developmentally ready to be -- we swore that we would never again push her around her enuresis. Rather, we vowed to remain vigilent for signs that she was ready to try again. Her doctor had even told me about the bedwetting alarm system about two years ago, but I wanted a sign from Sweet M. Her "whoo-hoo, no more diapies" was loud and clear.

We got the night-time wetness alarm from the bedwetting store online, and she's now almost always dry, except on nights when she sleeps too deeply from allergy medication and forgets to get up.

Our job was less one of discipline than one of cultivation. The metaphor of garden and cultivation is fairly well inscribed in our language and lives . . . kindergarten, the children's garden, where virtue is cultivated and wickedness weeded out.

This is Sweet M's fire escape garden. This year she selected all the plants herself, and made sure they made it into pots large enough for their development, except perhaps in the case of the "hen and chick" succulent ground cover that is searching for some place to put down roots. She waters the plants daily, to the occasional dismay of the ground floor neighbors. She makes her mulches of old leaves. She watches over her work. She harvests the chives for stir-fries and omelets.

She understands that she can't push the plants to grow faster, or force them into bloom. She just waters them, and gives them mulch and fertilizer, and waits for things to unfold.

I hope I can emulate her wisdom as I think about where she will go to school next year.


Anonymous said...

I usually post under my own name here, but I'm plumping for anon. because...well, I wasn't reliably dry at night until 1959. I was 8. And boy...the shame.

And I've had later episodes of enuresis, like when I had mono in 1969.

So here's to you Sweet M, for being ready! And here's to waking up to a dry bed!

Anonymous said...

yay for Sweet M and her infinite wisdom about readiness!

Anonymous said...


Casdok said...

Love your metaphor.