An ode to roots …

Like many households over the summer, I have spent a considerable amount of time sorting out the garden. For me, this generally means A LOT of weeding! It feels like a nanosecond since I last undertook this task, and now following the endless rain, the weeds cruelly taunt me with Jack Nicholson malice … ‘I’m back!’

It’s an annoying task, and yes, weedkillers have been subtly recommended, but as I am trying to save the planet, one insect at a time, I resort to pulling them up until I find an eco-friendlier alternative. I know weeds were lauded at the Chelsea Flower Show this year, but I live in the real world, and if I don’t manage the weeds, they will undoubtedly manage me. So, I venture forth with my gloves and inefficient tools, and begin the war.

In my opinion, there are two kinds of weeds. The first kind are the weeds which grow in cultivated soil; these are a cinch, coming away, roots intact, with very little difficulty. The second kind are the weeds with chutzpah and attitude; the weeds that find a spot in the most inhospitable places and flourish: cracks and crevices, shadows and shade, mortar and metalwork. I struggle to get them out, and admire them wholeheartedly for their stickability! These roots are so deeply embedded and entwined, I know that despite a valiant pluck, in a week or so they will be right back again. These weeds work the hardest to establish roots and despite environment, weather and human intervention, their resilience and ability to flourish is commendable.

I often speak to the children about moving out of comfort zones; powering through fear zones and sliding into growth zones. This is where the magic happens. There is no doubt that moving out of a comfort zone is hard for everyone. It is so much easier to remain in cultivated conditions where there is no struggle or hardship. The danger of this is your roots don’t grow strong enough to anchor you when challenges inevitably come along.  

Challenge and struggle are essential for healthy development. It is tempting to swoop in and make life easier for our children … tie the shoelace, zip up the coat, pack the kitbag, email the teacher about the test, the homework or friendship … we love our children and want the very best for them; that’s understandable. But if we don’t allow opportunities for these young saplings to establish roots when things become hard, we do them a great disservice. I’m not suggesting a Siberian winter of hardship, but rather manageable opportunities to try and resolve small problems independently.

If life has taught me anything, it is that most things are figure-out-able! If we listen to sage advice, and take a little time to work it out, we will get there. Despite our fast-moving world, we have to recognise our children are early learners – they are not going to get it straight away, but give them time and opportunity, and they will get there - ‘I can’t do it YET!’ - this is a cornerstone of resilience, and a foundation of future success.

The weeds in my garden continue to flourish, but instead of becoming irate, frustrated and weary, I put my feet up and raise my cup of tea in admiration of roots, knowing that when storms come along, these are what I depend on to anchor me, to get me through until the next challenge comes along … hopefully without the Jack Nicholson malevolence!

Head of Lower School Iona Carmody