While placing the last of the biscotti dough on a pan to bake, I noticed through my kitchen window a small tree with a stake next to it. The stake was placed there to keep the tree upright as it grew. There was a stretchy plastic tie attached at one time but it’s no longer there. The tree seems to be standing on its own so I was thinking maybe I should remove the stake now. But then I thought, “What if a strong wind storm comes and there is nothing in the ground to tie it to?” I decided to leave the stake in place maybe just one more year.
Plants that are left to grow ‘naturally’ don’t need to be staked. This particular tree is actually a shrub forced to be a tree. It has pink blooms in the spring and it’s been pruned to be shaped like a lollipop. I don’t think there is a tree that naturally grows in the shape of a lollipop.
As I was thinking about this I thought about how similar parenting seems to be. When our children were very young we were firmly planted close enough to keep a strap attached tight enough to keep them from falling over but loose enough so that their own roots would become strong. As they grew the strap was lengthened and stretched out from the pulling away they and the elements necessitated.
One child’s stake has been removed from the soil but it’s still in the same yard, back by the trash cans. The other child’s stake is still close beside him but there is no strap attached. It’s almost time to remove the stake but I keep thinking, “What if a strong wind storm comes?”
Truthfully if and when the strong wind comes it will most likely be in the dark of night with me asleep in bed. It is doubtful that I will run down in the rain and wind and place a plastic tie on this shrub turned tree. And our adult child will most likely chafe against any ties designed to keep his trunk straight in the wind.
At some point the stakes must be removed and the tree is left to either grow or be knocked down. Most trees don’t really fall all the way to the ground (although some do), most trees just lean if they’ve experienced repeated strong winds. But every gardener places these plants with their future beauty and maturity in mind, so it makes sense to start out with the stake and plastic tie.
A wise gardener prunes each plant based on it’s species, learning it destined shape rather than forcing it into a shape that will require life-long attention. We tried to do this with both our children, discover their God given shape and as they grew giving them freedom to live out the shape they choose. But it’s not easy to remove the stake completely, especially when the leaning starts to show and the sucker branches grow up from the roots keeping the top from flowering.
I’ll watch from the window and see what’s in store for these little trees. I anticipate the Spring when I’ll enjoy the flurry of pink blossoms. I choose to enjoy their beauty and not worry about the coming storms, misshapen form or possible uprooting. It’s time to remove the stake.