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The Unexpected Joy of Imperfection

Updated on March 9, 2010

#7 in Reflections of Life's Unexpected Joys

The Unexpected Joy of Imperfection

August 2007

Striving for imperfection doesn’t really seem like something to teach your children. But as I have discovered there are definite benefits to embracing imperfection at times. I don’t think I’m a perfectionist. I certainly do not do anything perfectly. However, I always wish things were perfect and I always feel a little bothered by the imperfections, so I suppose I must have perfectionist tendencies. So this summer, when I was the gardener in charge of a very imperfect garden, I felt some stress.

Looking out my back window at the garden that was more weeds than vegetables I felt a distinct sense of failure and I had vague thoughts of possibly not planting a garden next spring since I obviously don’t take care of it. I grew up in farm country where people have gardens so neat and tidy that it looks like someone sweeps between the rows. These are the gardens I am striving towards and mine certainly didn’t measure up. There really were some good reasons (sort of) for having such a weedy garden. It rained so often this summer that it was hard to get out there. When it was nice there were always other jobs that took precedence and the mosquitoes and black flies were absolutely loving the cool, rainy summer. Therefore, weeding was really no fun at all and very easy to neglect. So with these dismal thoughts I wondered if I would bother next year. But that was before the pea plants had peas and the bean plants had beans. When these things arrived, the children had so much fun tramping through the garden looking for the vegetables that I began to enjoy having a garden again.

What a joy it was for me to look out my window and see the kids crouching down picking vegetables and enjoying them fresh. It was fun to work outside along with them picking peas and filling our buckets. It was fun to enjoy the fresh vegetables at supper with my family. And as I watched my small tribe of kids tramping through the garden pulling up a few carrots here, a few leaves of lettuce there and some peas and beans I was so thankful that my garden wasn’t picture perfect. Would I allow my young ones freedom to go tramping around, pulling up vegetables at will in a picture perfect garden? In an award winning garden? In a garden that magazine editors were begging to photograph? I think not! Where would be the joy in barring my children from the garden? This weedy garden, with bare patches where plants failed to thrive and other overcrowded spaces, with flowers waving cheerily at the front border, this garden with slugs hiding under the pea plants because I didn’t get around to staking them up as the package suggested, this is a garden that children can enjoy and this mother can experience joy from watching their excitement. Will I try to weed more diligently next year? I hope so. Will I ever have a perfect garden? No, I doubt it, but I think I will always have a garden which welcomes children. That is a garden worth having.


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