This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ProFlowers. I received a free bonsai tree in return for this post. All opinions are 100% mine.
Now that Claire is 3-1/2 years old, she has no problem expressing her dissatisfaction whenever she feels we, as parents, are restricting her ability to grow as an individual. For example, if we make the mistake of actually entering or leaving the house without first giving Claire the opportunity to open the door, then we can expect to have a screaming toddler on our hands for at least the next 20 minutes. And the only way to calm her tantrum is to offer her a hug and an "I'm sorry" - but only after she's had a sufficient amount of time to loudly and repetitively tell you, "I wanted to be first!" So I'm constantly looking for ways to give Claire responsibility - or the power - for making her own decisions. As a parent, it's easy to forget Claire is a miniature person trying to grow in a big person's world. So while she's struggling to develop to her full potential, I'm often times restricting her ability by doing things for her or by being overprotective. But in my view, it's like keeping a little tomato plant in a small pot before transferring it to the garden. I want to nurture and care for my little sprout until she's ready to bloom.
So lately, I've been looking for ways to help Claire blossom within the imaginary protective container I've built around her. I want her to feel a sense of harmony, peace and balance with her surroundings so she can develop a Zen-like approach to pruning and shaping herself. And that's when it hit me - Bonsai!
I was recently given the opportunity to obtain a Bonsai tree from ProFlowers. So I visited ProFlowers.com and selected a Hibiscus Bonsai as a surprise for Claire. Her tree arrived yesterday, and Claire could not be happier. In fact, she's ecstatic! This particular bonsai variety - known as Lil' Kim - blooms in summer so, as you can see, it arrived with little flowers on it. To Zen Buddhists, the bonsai is a symbol of honor and prestige. To Claire, it's just a REALLY cool tree in a ceramic pot that she can nurture and care for everyday. As a dad, I know how she feels. And over time, Claire will begin to realize her tree also represents peace, harmony, and all good things. And unlike her mother - who seems to kill any plant ever introduced into our home - Claire has already developed a green thumb.
Part of Claire's journey toward a better understanding of the world around her involves learning about her environment and how she can take care of it. At her Montessori preschool, she's been taught to respect the environment and all the creatures that live in it. So instead of squishing bugs we find indoors, we have to capture them and release them back into the wild - something I struggle with since I find most bugs just as objectionable as I do snakes. Therefore, Claire's momma is Chief Bug Catcher around our house.
But there are other things I can do as a dad to make the world a better place for Claire and future generations of Stewarts. For example, I teach Claire about water conservation by only showering and shaving once or twice a week - three times if I actually go to church on Sunday. Just this morning Claire scolded me, "You're wasting water," after I left the water running too long while scrubbing a frying pan in the sink. We also have a very elaborate recycling center I designed within one of our kitchen cupboards that consists of our trash can for garbage and a paper grocery bag for recyclables. Claire wants me to draw a triangle on the paper bag because she learned at preschool that the triangle represents recycling. Also, my friends from college won't be surprised to learn I grow my own herbs - for cooking, that is. Mainly cilantro and basil. I even used to make Claire organic baby food in a blender when she was younger, but now we just buy organic food from the grocery store or make homemade smoothies from organic bananas. Additionally, we grow a lot of our own produce, and Claire likes to help water and weed the garden. Check that - she USED to like to water the garden until the day she dropped the water hose and drenched herself.
Anyway, I think Claire can grow into quite the little Zen Master by caring for her own bonsai tree. We also have a lot of hippy friends with solid environmental values who have a strong influence on Claire. Plus, Claire's grandpa and grandma own their own farm where they raise crops that they feed to their cows and pigs (no hormones on this farm!). AND, Claire's Auntie Karen is very much into sustainable design through her company, Watershed Design Group. So with any luck at all, Claire will not only blossom into the kind of person we all groom her to be, but - more importantly - into the person she wants to be.