Plants are like people. They are individuals belonging to families. Their scientific names are like ours: they have first names and surnames. But unlike people, individual plants have no names. It’s like the same person being in so many places at the same time!
I love putting plants at home. I am always in search of indoor plants that are strong enough to withstand periods of drought and darkness. For me, it’s a compatibility issue.
I noticed that plants I am compatible with are those that thrive in my company. These plants are the ones that are most compatible with my habits and lifestyle. The friends and relatives closest to me are like the plants that thrive in my home. They accept (not just tolerate!) me, my opinions and beliefs.
Caring for plants entails knowing them well. This includes determining the kind of soil they like, how much sun and water they need and giving them additional nourishment. The “Welcome Plant” for example, seems to like loose well-drained soil. It can stay in the shade for long periods and does not need watering every day.
The Sanggumay, we recently learned, will flower only if daily (or even twice daily) watering stops during the “ber” months, otherwise, keiki (baby plants) will grow instead. When watered everyday, cacti die. Plants have “feelings,” too. Not in the way we have them. But they show how they are affected in ways that are all too obvious: their leaves turn yellow, droop or turn brown, then fall. They get blotches or bumps, they get stunted but when they get the care they need, they flourish!
Just like plants, people have different needs as well and even without saying anything, there are visible or observable signs that they lack something or are getting adequate doses of nurturing. Some people prefer more attention than others. Some need more specialized, hands-on care—the “touchy-feely” treatment, for example, makes them thrive.
In The Primacy of Human Touch http:(//www.benbenjamin.net/pdfs/Issue2.pdf), Dr. Ben E. Benjamin explains that a century ago, babies in orphanages lived to be seven months old only because they suffered from “marasmus” even with adequate nutrition and a sterile environment. Without touching and cuddling, they withered away.
The affliction was quickly reversed when the babies were exposed to human touch. Those who volunteered to give the babies massages and cuddles also benefitted from the sessions: “they drink less coffee and make fewer trips to the doctor. When they regularly massage babies, they also have lower anxiety levels, fewer symptoms of depression, and improved self-esteem,” writes Dr. Benjamin.
But not everyone needs to be touched all the time. There are those who are content with just being able to find you when you’re needed. But everyone needs affirmation one way or another, the assurance that someone is always on their side.
Like plants, people have basic needs but the amount, frequency and intensity vary. I have observed that even if my own children were brought up the same way, each one has a unique combination of needs that I needed to discover to nurture them effectively.
My husband and I have always been so laid back as parents that we allowed them to make mistakes in “controlled environments”--meaning cushions and safeguards were there, but they were allowed to explore. They were allowed to choose their clothes early on.
The youngest seemed to hate diapers, even if the pull-ups had already been available when he was a toddler. So I needed to talk to him as if he were an adult and had him promise that he would tell me when he needed to go to the bathroom. Most times he did, but he soon learned when “emergencies” were coming.
Our children chose the courses they wanted to take in college, and we gave advice about such choices only when asked.
My only regret is that if I had known how to push them a little bit, they probably could have achieved more. I try to console myself with the thought that at least, I did not consciously keep them from pushing themselves to achieve more if they had wanted to!
I had sessions with my daughter about what we expected from her. Though disappointed about her grades in high school, she learned the joys of getting good grades in college.
Feelings are never wrong
Having been a full-time mother to my children entailed ascertaining their needs and wants without being too intrusive. This included determining which behaviors signaled the need for attention or sharing, when they needed encouragement or consolation and how messages are conveyed so misunderstanding is avoided.
Caring for people means giving them what they need and want, not what we can or are willing to give. If we gauge them according to how we think they should live, then we are slowly killing them. We need to know and accept their feelings. Feelings are good indicators of whether we are giving the care they want and need. Feelings are never wrong, so we need to listen to them.