This morning, I noticed my 3-year-old fig tree straining against the tethers that anchored it to its support posts. When I loosened the tethers, I noticed that underneath, the tree bark was beginning to suffer from damaging effects of trapped dampness. Fortunately, I caught my error in time, and gave the young tree some additional breathing room, in which to heal and continue to grow.
The tree pointed out that providing it the optimal growing environment required that I not simply tether a young tree to support stakes upon planting, nor that I simply free the young tree to fend for itself on this windy hill, but that instead, I maintain a closer vigilance, noting when it was just beginning to outgrow its tethers, and giving it just a bit more freedom, and just a bit more freedom, and just a bit more freedom — while it slowly builds up its own strength and powers of resilience.
As a parent, I find this to be a powerful reminder of my duty to provide an appropriate level of protection and support to my son, while also ensuring that I provide him adequate room to experiment, move, grow, and breathe. Finding the right balance between support and freedom is a real challenge. It requires vigilance because the needs of children (as of plants) will vary with the weather — both physical and spiritual — as they slowly lurch their way toward adulthood.