Rooted, But Limitless

I’ve been learning a few things about raising humans, while working on growing plants.

One year ago we decided to start a big garden project at our house here in Thailand. The soil around our house is mostly hard red clay, with a very thin layer of composted plant matter on top. It’s a less than ideal environment for many plants. The first things we planted came up quickly, and died just as quickly, wilting in the heat without enough water, and then rotting as they flooded when the heavy rains came.

Before the land can give us enough produce to eat and sustain us, we need to heal it, and build the soil. We have to be intentional about planting things that the land needs, that give it life.

This is mostly Aaron’s project. He’s been researching permaculture, restoration agriculture principles, biology, how plants grow. Whenever Aaron learns something he dives deep, and learns everything he can about it.

Just this month Aaron told me something he’d just learned about plants that I’d never heard before, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.

You have to get a seedling into the ground before its roots hit a boundary. The plant decides how big it can grow based on the limits that its roots encounter in the very early stages of growth, and those limits become embedded into the genetic code of the plant. Once it has decided how big it has the room to get, it will not grow bigger. For a plant to thrive, it needs the structure of the soil to dig deep into, but that structure needs to be in a way that doesn’t impose limits on the room it has to spread out and grow.

So we’ve been racing to get suddenly large seedlings out of their tiny starter pots and into the ground for the past few weeks, spending evenings and weekends planting them out, and the whole time I’ve been thinking about how this applies to people and parenting.

Children need structure in order to thrive, like baby plants need the soil to send their roots down deep into to help them grow strong. But children also need wide horizons, a big enough limitless mindset that allows them to go out into the world and aim for whatever they dream of achieving.

Our parenting needs to give our children the structure and safety they need to sprout and send out roots, without imposing limits on what they can accomplish. These things are rarely taught by words, but by action and experience. Many times we pass on our limiting beliefs to our children without realizing it. They come to accept mental box that we have put around our own lives and possibilities as true for them as well.

I’ve been investing a lot of time the past few years examining my own limiting beliefs, things I have inherited from my family of origin, or concluded from my own experiences. There are so many places in my life that I have found where the only thing that prevents me from doing something is the belief that I can’t actually do it.

Once that belief is changed, it becomes possible. Though, in practicality, sometimes it’s experiencing that my limiting belief is wrong, just by trying something and seeing it work, that shows me the falseness of the story I have been telling myself.

The story we tell ourselves is a powerful thing, and it’s hard work to change it, or find the falsehoods in it.

This is why I have learned to challenge the voice I hear that says it can’t be done, to push against it to see if that boundary really exists outside my own head. The more I do that, the more I realize that I am the main obstacle in my path. Or, my thoughts are, anyway.

Far wiser people than me over the years have said this, and I’ve even read their quotes before, but I didn’t understand them. I thought I did. But I didn’t have the necessary experience to see the deep truth in what they said.

So I work to push against my self imposed boundaries,and try to keep my children from running up against one. Challenging them when they limit themselves to try, to test, to see if that boundary is really there. 

I work to place my children into the good spacious soil of the world they are part of so they can root themselves deeply, and stretch their limbs wide. My job now, after so many years of nurturing, is to help them them move from the sheltering place they once needed in order to be able to sprout, and prepare a welcoming, nourishing place for them in the wider world that they can take root in, before their growth is stunted.

I work to give them a growth mindset by living out of one myself.

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