Last summer I built a self-watering container for one of our tomato plants.  The plant went crazy with foliage and fruit, thanks in large part to the design (not mine).  The self-watering container has a reservoir at the bottom so the plant doesn’t get watered from the top; its soil wicks up water from below so the roots are steadily damp, the way they like it. The grower’s job is just to keep the reservoir full.  The plant’s job is to take what it needs.

I realized the other day that tomatoes grown this way not only benefit from the steady supply of just enough water but are also less likely to split from overwatering.

Overall tomato health depends also on many other factors, of course.  Human children are as complicated, if not more, but it occurs to me that the two are similar in this respect.  Kids tend to learn more (and more of what they actually need) when adults assume a role like reservoir-filler rather than waterer-from-above.  When adults offer things – a steady diet of options and opportunities – kids drink them up as needed, suitable, and sustainable.  I’ve watched it happen with reading, various kinds of information and knowledge, creative pursuits, even fractions!

When we force things on kids, whether or not those things might benefit them under some circumstances, if they’re tired or full or in need of something entirely else just then, they can’t take anything in and everybody loses.  Adults gets exhausted, kids have to choose only between complying and resisting, and nothing much moves forward.  Our energies are so much better spent keeping our ears to the ground for great stuff, and serving it up.