On allowing growth
Good morning; I hope this finds you well. It’s raining heavily in Bristol, so I am a bit worried about the peas we took out to the allotment this week. Growing plants from the seed is my learning challenge this week, and I am noticing how precious those little plants have become. I remember how they emerged from the soil within days, demanding a move from the propagator to a larger pot, and now, three weeks later, they were too tall to stay with us at home. We prepared a more shaded side of our allotment shed with new compost and netting for them to climb on, so I hope they have been okay with this rain since yesterday. Of course, I will check on them today, but it’s interesting to notice how attached I have become to those babies.
And babies are all around us now. The garden is dotted with bulbs coming up from the ground and small plants emerging in preparation for sunnier, warmer days. It all still feels slightly cautious, but it’s happening nonetheless. And, if I could, I’d like to protect each and everyone one of those with a cloche or a fleece – just like the strawberries hidden comfortably under one – but I know I cannot. We all need to emerge and start our new life at some point, and our parents, teachers, and carers need to let us go and take care of ourselves.
This week I was thinking about this a lot. Each time I greet my favourite oak tree in the park, I mourn that she is now growing into the metal cage that was there initially to protect her in her youth. I think of this each time I see a tree trapped like that. There comes a point when we need to let our babies and our students go.
My counselling clients learn to heal and be well, but I cannot make every step with them. Thus I also need to foster their personal agency. My clients learn to navigate the unpredictable waters of social media with me, but ultimately, they must exist in those virtual spaces with their own authenticity.
My child is turning 18 next year. Next week I am taking them to their birth city of Budapest so I think about this a lot. Each day I see their wonderful cravings for independence, adventure and new life outside our home. And I feel the pull to protect them from the world out there. But I know that I have given them enough. I need to trust their ability to take my teachings to make their own mistakes and enjoy their own journey freely. It would be unkind of me to step in and stop them from their drive for self-actualisation. In fact, like with the oak tree, I could cause more harm than intended.
And so I am practising compassion towards my inner parent and trust that I have grown enough for the babies to handle the big wide world. I will be here if they need a safe harbour, but I trust they have enough nutrients, teachings and their own life force to walk their own path. In fact, I cannot wait to see them bloom.
In the local woodland, wild garlic babies are also coming up. Slowly, carefully embracing the cold and wet days, they are preparing to cover the area with a carpet of green generosity (we can forage wild garlic as long as we do it responsibly), soon to be followed by beautiful white blooms, too. And when that happens, bluebells will join in, too. I have spotted the first bluebells at the gate of our allotments, so I cannot wait to see the woodland in white, blue and pink, too.
Speaking of blooms, I saw the bay leave the tree in bloom for the first time yesterday. It’s beautiful! I finally got to visit the Garden of Easton, a local coffee shop known for its love for plants and home-line interior design. I have one of those trees in the allotment, so I hope ours will bloom one day, too.
Today, I invite you to practice stepping off your student’s path and making space for them to confidently walk it. Think of a relationship where you are the mentor, and they are the learner and use the hiking metaphor to explore how power and empowerment show up in it. You can think about it, visualise it, draw it or write about it:
Q: What is the landscape looking like for you both now? Is it stormy or sunny? Are you walking a mountain path, a tricky canyon, or a volcano site? What conditions do you both need: you to step aside, they to move forward?
Q: What contingency do they need to walk their path safely: check their backpack, offer advice on where to get more supplies and how to care for what you have offered. You have been carrying some of their load; how can you safely place it in their backpack? What do you need to know to be sure that they are ready?
Q: Do you need to agree on when you will step aside? Do you need to discuss when you may need to check in again and meet on the path to catch up again?
Q: What do you need to tend to your own change? Do you need a moment for reflection? When we let go of people, the space can fill up with new stuff – so what else do you have to walk your path in balance? Remember: you’ve been carrying their load too, so now you must adjust your backpack too.
Q: Check out with yourself: if you continue walking the path with them, how much harm will your shadow cause to their agency and independence? Explore co-dependency in your relationship. Where is the power now, and where should it be to offer liberation for you both?
(Enjoy the hiking metaphor while I am going to go for a long walk with a friend while also checking on the peas on the way there. I sense they are okay, but the storm was powerful yesterday, so there is a legitimate risk of them struggling. I am confident they will be fine if they are still holding on to the netting after all this heavy rain. Have a good weekend!)
This post was originally posted on Substack in our Syl’s Liberation Psychologies Newsletter.