I have always had what I jokingly refer to as a “black thumb.” My great-grandmother was famous in my small town for her gorgeous rose garden and abundant orchids, but I haven’t met a hardy indoor ivy I couldn’t kill.
During the ongoing quarantine in our state, I decided to try once again to grow some houseplants. Friends and neighbors generously gifted me with over a dozen plants, and I am thrilled to say that they are thriving!
Two plants I am particularly proud of came to me looking kind of sad. They had been cut back to a few inches above the soil, but have since grown lovely large green leaves. I placed them both on my front porch, where one was promptly attacked by caterpillars. I didn’t notice for a week or so, and by the time I did, I had to cut away quite a bit of the new growth to allow it to recover. (I promise, I am making a point about Catholic motherhood eventually!)
Anyway, the other day, my Dad was visiting me on the porch, and he pointed to the previously caterpillar-infested plant, “Wow, that plant is doing great!”
“Yes, but look how much better it could be doing,” I replied, pointing to the much larger healthier plant, “The smaller one was eaten by caterpillars, so it’s just recovering.”
Almost as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I felt a little ridiculously guilty for saying that about my plant. It did look great! It had recovered from a near brush with death by caterpillar. For some unimaginable reason, I felt obliged to point out that it could look even better by comparing it unfairly with the bigger version nearby.
So here is my quarantine plant lesson:
Comparison is truly the thief of joy, especially for me as a mother. Rather than rejoicing that my children are playing happily together in the living room, I wish they would spend more time outside like my nephews. Rather than be excited that my kids are reading, I envy the more challenging reading list my friends’ kids have tackled. Rather than appreciate my comfortable house and spacious yard, I wish I had a room farther away from me where I could send my kids when they want to sing “Everything Is Awesome” at the top of their lungs for the thousandth time.
St. Paul warns us of the foolishness of comparison: Not that we dare to class or compare ourselves . . . But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding (2 Cor 10:12).
Just like my struggling yet beautiful smaller plant, I can look at myself, my mothering, and compare myself to those I think are doing better, and be foolishly sad, ashamed, and jealous. Or I can wisely eschew comparison and know that I am beautiful and loved in God the Father’s eyes. He sees me like my Dad saw my little houseplant, and says, “You’re doing great!”
We’re doing great, Moms. We really are!