As parents, one of our greatest joys is sharing our hobbies with our kids. For my oldest son, this meant growing pumpkins. Each year, I’d hoe a mound of dirt and he would plant a child-sized handful of pumpkin seeds in each hill. All went well until we noticed our county fair had a category for giant pumpkins. Naturally, we got bit by the competition bug.
Giant Pumpkin Growing
I’ve always felt healthy competition is a good thing. It encourages all of us to strive to do our best. And when used as a measure of our own improvement and not as a means of lording superiority over others, competition can be the driving force for personal growth.
As such, I don’t believe in giving unearned trophies and awards. Realizing that hard work is the key to improving one’s skill sets is a hard, but necessary, lesson for children to learn. It teaches them how to survive as adults in a dog-eat-dog world. As a parent, I also know it can be excruciating to watch our children learn this life lesson.
Thus, the spring of my son’s second grade year in school, I purchased a pack of giant pumpkin seeds. He excitedly set his sights on the county fair competition and that fall he was rewarded with five giant pumpkins. At fair time, he picked out what appeared to be the largest, and my husband and I struggled to roll it up a ramp into the bed of our truck.
Weighing in at 145.6 pounds, my son earned the third place ribbon. He was ecstatic and we were proud parents. I wish the story ended there.
Pumpkins in the Garden Grew More
A few weeks after the fair, my son excitedly stepped off the school bus clutching a flyer. “Look, Mom,” he said, handing me the paper. “Another pumpkin contest.” Sure enough, a local community group invited the third grade classes to bring their biggest pumpkins to a weigh-in at the local supermarket.
Again, my husband and I loaded one of the giant pumpkins onto the bed of the truck. At the weigh-in location, the contest organizers were impressed and praised my son for his gardening skills. On the way home, my son made a startling admission.
“I think we were supposed to grow these pumpkins from the seeds they gave us,” he confessed. Confused by this turn of events, we queried our son only to find out this community group had given all the second graders pumpkin seeds at the end of the last school year.
Now I admit, when those bookbags come home on the last day of school, I’m as done with school papers as are my kids. So thrown in the corner of the closet was the bookbag containing a zipper-sealed bag with a half dozen pumpkin seeds.
A note was stapled on the baggie explaining how to plant the Connecticut field pumpkins for the upcoming contest in the fall. After explaining to my son about differences in vegetable varieties and how it wasn’t fair to enter our giant pumpkins, he agreed to withdraw from the competition. I was proud of the personal growth my son exhibited that day.