*This post was brought to you by site supporter and guest blogger, Sara Stringer.
We’re huge fans of ABC sitcom The Middle at our house — the story of the Heck family, trying to get through daily life in small-town Orson, Indiana, is not only a parallel to our own experience (especially the part where the Heck parents struggle to pay the family bills and try to distinguish between wants and needs) but is also a good starting point for after-show conversations about episode themes and our family’s values.
This is why my 9 and 11-year old girls laughed so hard at last month’s Middle season premiere, in which oldest son Axl goes off to college insisting he needs only a bag of clothes and an inflatable palm tree. No, it wasn’t because they thought Axl was being silly, or that he should have listened to mom Frankie’s advice to take notebooks and shower shoes. It’s because they had spent the past month campaigning for a palm tree of their own.
We’d been planning a landscape renovation for a while now, and this fall seriously started the budgeting and design for what will be next spring’s project. I wanted roses, my husband and I both wanted an organic garden, and the kids, who had just come back from a Labor Day trip to visit Disney World with the grandparents, wanted palm trees. (They had never been to Florida before. Apparently, my littlest one couldn’t stop running her hands up and down the thick palm tree bark, especially when they found palm trees growing in the atrium of their hotel.)
I argued that we lived too far north to include palm trees among our roses and spinach, but my 11-year-old, far more Google-savvy than I, went online and proved that there are palm trees for sale that are acclimated for your climate.
“Some of them are less than ten dollars,” she told me. This meant that she could buy one out of her very own allowance.
As all parents know, at a certain point kids stop asking for things because they want them and start asking for them just to be silly. Whenever the girls saw my husband and I looking through seed catalogs or drawing up our garden plans, they would come up behind and say “and what about… a palm tree?” and then giggle in that crazy way that young girls tend to do.
It was just to the point of getting tiresome when The Middle premiered, and this time after the show I asked the girls seriously if they wanted a palm tree, and if they would agree that it would be their palm tree, the way that our two shelter-adoption cats are their cats and they’re responsible for feeding and taking care of them.
They were thrilled. They agreed to pool their allowance to cover the cost of the tree. We ended up getting a Windmill palm tree, which can survive temperatures below freezing; it is currently sitting in a planter on our back porch, happily watered by both girls and occasionally petted, like a cat, by my younger one.
And now our garden plans include spinach, peas, lettuce, roses, and an X in the corner marked “palm tree.” Sometimes you have to give up your expectations of what a garden should be, or what types of plants can grow where, to be a good parent.