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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Life is Fragile Enough; Don’t Break It!

LIFE IS FRAGILE ENOUGH; DON’T BREAK IT! I had a pretty wild idea about a month or so ago. (I guess the 100+ degrees days of the south Texas heat were cooking my brain.) I decided I would grow fall tomato plants from seed, plant them in five-gallon buckets (I had about four dozen of them donated), and give them to the senior citizens in our church. (In this part of the country, it’s possible to have fresh, home-grown tomato relish with your Christmas dinner.)

My first agricultural efforts were a disaster. I grew exactly ZERO tomato plants. As I was sharing as much with one of the senior ladies in the church, she pulled me aside and told me how to grow tomatoes from seed.

They’re so fragile; everything has to be just right.

She told me to cover newly planted seeds with a damp potato sack (AKA “gunny sack” or “toe sack).

Don’t water them by hand; you’ll drown them. Just keep the sack damp, and it will both water them and protect them. Do that, and you’ll have tomato plants.


I followed her sage advice. Tomato seedlings started popping up in four days. Four days!

Watching those tiny plants come to life reminded me of our first child. When my wife and I brought him home from the hospital, we wanted everything to be just right. We sterilized everything, made certain that the temperature of his formula was perfect, and we would get up in the night to check on him in his crib. (Do you remember gently placing your hand on your baby’s back at night, just to make sure he or she was breathing?)

Can you identify? Eventually that helpless little creature that depended so on you to survive grew up a bit, didn’t they? They began not to listen when you told them something, or they threw their clothes down just any old place, or they didn’t take out the trash, or they made a “C” in math or conduct on their report card. They weren’t fragile anymore, and they weren’t much fun at times, either. In fact, they were times when they were downright annoying.

What’s the cost of annoying behavior in relationship currency? Could it mean Dad will not see his daughter smile at him because he’s still upset with her for spilling a whole milkshake in his new car? Could it mean that Mom might step away when her son tries to hug her because she still resents the fact he was 20 minutes late last night when they were all supposed to go over to her supervisor’s house for dinner?

What’s the price of those annoying behaviors?

Although I’ve been a child and adolescent psychologist for a few decades, my wife has always been the better and more intuitive parent in our house. When our son, like so many teenagers, seemed to be on his own flight plan through life, it annoyed her no end that he made no effort at all to keep his room picked up. (We’re not talking spotless here; we’re talking the simple ability to navigate the room with reasonable safety and without the need for a tetanus shot.)

She and he have always been close, but this “Pick up your room!” thing was pressing hard on them both. When she realized the price they were paying for it was too dear, she made him this bargain:

Son, if you’d like for your room to be vacuumed and cleaned, you’ll need to pick it up enough so someone can get in there. If you don’t want to do that, then close the door where I don’t have to look at it. If you do that, I won’t say any more about it.

I won’t say that bargain always worked smoothly, but I am certain their relationship improved because of it.

Yes, just like with those tiny, tender little tomato seedlings, life is precious and fragile. We really have no guarantees we will see our loved ones again when we send them off for the day. None at all.

So think about it: Could closing the door a little open up the relationship a lot?

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:


August 9, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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