“They GREW you.”

My son, teaching English in Japan as part of the JET program, recently published the following on his facebook page (JTE stands for Japanese Teacher of English):

JTE: IB, we love your parents! They are WONDERFUL!
Me: hahaha Why? Have you met them before?
JTE: No… But, they GREW you! I want to say to them, thank you. Thank you for IB.

So touched. I love Japan.

Yes, a very sweet and tender anecdote from one of the teachers IB is working with. But also what a telling story about the great cultural esteem with which parents are held in Japan. The story threw me at first because it would be hard for me to imagine anyone in this country saying or believing what the JTE said. Even as a parent, though I and my husband did the best we could to provide a genuine, loving, caring, creative environment for IB and being honest and accountable with him about our many missteps, I feel parenting was in part a crap shoot. It seemed far too complicated with way too many variables to have any real control over.

But in Japan, apparently the opposite extreme holds sway. Over this complex network of relationships, emotional connection, and plethora of variables, parents are held ultimately responsible for the outcome. This seems almost hubristic or from an earlier era that believed in corruption of blood.

Like the JTE above said, we did grow IB. We gave him lots of water and compost, not always sure what was too much. We weeded his patch as best we could so he might flourish, but weren’t always consistent. We did some hard pruning, when necessary, and when we became aware of its need. We made sure he got plenty of sun, but sometimes it was hard to know when shade was needed as well.

However, we could neither control the weather, especially its extremes, nor the various hungry marauders in the garden. Sometimes we were not aware of aphids or other pests that may have nested along his branches. And when he got transplanted into different environments, we had very little control over any of the factors necessary for thriving.

I know it’s all about the strength of the roots and that sometimes we have to let go of gardening altogether for the harvest to fully flourish. I know parenting is about authentic and loving intention, paired with acting on those intentions. But I also know that in order to grow IB,  we needed to be open and willing and vulnerable to grow ourselves as well.

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5 Responses to “They GREW you.”

  1. Jerome Bloom says:






  2. Mrs. Chili says:

    This is a lovely metaphor for parenting. As the mother of two (count ’em; TWO!) teenaged girls, I find myself in the throes of wondering about my skills as a gardener. I just have to keep being mindful, doing my best, and believing that it will all be okay…

  3. Wonderful analysis of growing a child!

  4. I’ve never heard it put that way before. But it’s true. And as you mentioned, parents in Japan are held in esteem, which is not the case in our country. This philosophy would have to be taught at an early age, yet I’m afraid our culture would nip it in the bud. It’s a shame.

  5. Ah, crap shoot or not, you two rock as parents. Part of it must be the fact that you chalk your skills as a parent up to the chaos of the world — just shows that you are open to all the joy/pain/absurdity/wonder of it all. Love the story, and both of you (and IB, too, of course).

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