What if dandelions were flowers instead of weeds?

My yard grows the best flowers.

I did not really appreciate this fact until Aida fell in love with dandelions this spring.

A little background…I despise dandelions. They make me sneeze like crazy. They grow everywhere I don’t want them to. They spring back up after I mow them down with the lawnmower. They get stronger when I pull them out but don’t get the whole taproot. They make me resort to using chemicals to keep my front walk turning into a jungle. (I gave up on the back walk and now just mow it.)

Dandelions bring out something in me that I don’t really like. I need to control them; keep them in their place (which is preferably not in my yard, walkway, or garden). So along comes Aida. I decide to recruit her in my effort to thwart the ever-increasing dandelion population. I teach her which flowers are dandelions, and then send her on a special mission to pick bouquets of them. I figure the more flowers she picks now, the fewer seeds will fly around later.

Aida does just that. She picks them. She talks to them. She plays games with them. She makes them her friends. And then she recruits me to do the same. Now we have pills of dandelions (and rocks) all over the place. They are precious; not to be discarded lightly.

I don’t realize the full magnitude of what this toddler is teaching me until I am asking her to pick up the piles of rocks in the yard and move them to a safe place. She wants to know why. I will be mowing the yard the next day and I don’t want to hurt the rocks (or the mower). “But what about the dandelions?” she asks. So we move those piles too.

Once the lawn was dry enough this morning, I started up the lawnmower. I first mowed the sides of the house that was in the sun (inadvertently avoiding the huge field of dandelions on the other side of the house.) That first pass through the field of dandelions and I remembered Aida’s question from yesterday. “But what about the dandelions?”

A green lawn that has been mown on the left side but let the right side is untouched to allow the dandelion and other wildflowers grow.
Note where the lines from the lawnmower stop and the dandelions start. I could not go any further without making my heart hurt.

My heart sank a little bit with each pass. The adult part of me understood all the reasons that the yard needed to be mowed (the grass was getting long, the biting bugs will be less with a managed lawn, the dandelions will soon turn into puffballs and spread their seeds everywhere). But her question haunted me, and started me on the thought path of “what if dandelions were flowers instead of weeds?

This post was originally published in Bluedog Adventures (May 2015). Aida was a three-year-old toddler at that time. She still loves dandelions now. But sometimes her joy comes from decapitating them. We no longer use any chemicals to control weeds as the butterflies we raised would be harmed by them.

What have your children (or someone else’s children) taught you? Are you a bit kinder because of that lesson?

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