Bonsai & Fatherhood Are More Similar Than You Think
7 Ways Practicing Bonsai Will Make You a Great Dad
Not long ago I was dealing with depression. Meditation helped and I began practicing regularly. A mentor suggested I create a place to meditate; burn incense, play music and have a bonsai tree. A mantle for mind expansion.
I had incense and music, but no trees. Two hours of research and I was hooked. Now I have 50 trees in my garden, I write a weekly blog on the art and I recently had one of my trees accepted in the largest bonsai exhibition in the US. I’m in deep.
Bonsai teaches me everyday. It makes me more productive at work. It brings me health and happiness, and it makes me a better parent. Here’s seven ways bonsai can teach you to be a better dad.
1. Development Takes Patience
In bonsai, we measure progress in seasons, not days. Design cannot be rushed, we can’t glue a limb where one might be needed. Patience wins. Being a successful dad is understanding that your child won’t pee his pants forever. He will learn to be respectful. She’ll value you some day. Measure your child’s progress in seasons, not days or weeks.
2. Get Your Hands Dirty
Bonsai trees don’t design themselves. They’re not gonna jump out of the pot, on a beautiful spring morning, and give themselves a repot. Nope, we have to do the work. We have to move the trees along, that’s the art. Great dads show up and get their hands dirty. Who doesn’t want to get behind the screen after a long day? I do. But, emotionally balanced kids don’t raise themselves. Their not gonna jump out of bed, one beautiful morning, and teach themselves right from wrong. Nope, we have to show up and give our guidance. We have to move them along, that’s the art.
“Failure, especially when experienced inside my cocoon of love, becomes part of their story and my kids need better stories”
3. Look Inward
Trees die. It’s an unfortunate aspect of the bonsai culture. When it happens, you must ask yourself, why? Take stock and reflect. How can I do better next time. What mistakes did I make and how can I correct them. Seems easy enough. Now do it as parent. Not so easy, is it? Our kids are constantly testing our limits, challenging our boundaries, and making our lives a living hell. It’s too easy to get angry and play the blame game. It’s best to look inward. Take stock and reflect. How can I parent better next time? The good dads look inward.
4. A Little Planning Goes Along Way
Observe, clean, & wire. That's the process for designing a tree. I start by observing the tree, then I clean it up. I finish by wiring. All before I design a single branch. This planning process allows me to quickly and efficiently create the tree I have in my head. Great parents make a plan, and stick to it. Every Sunday, my wife and I plan our week. Appointments, kids’ activities, workouts, all of it. When I’m prepared, I’m a better dad, and you will be too.
5. Same, But Different
I own 7 Japanese Black Pines. Each in a different stage of development. Young trees get more fertilizer, older specimens treated with care. Same, but different. I have 3 boys. Each in a different state of development. My youngest gets more direction. My oldest, more freedom. Same, but different. It’s simple, but not easy. The key to this concept is to own it and communicate it clearly to your kids. Your children need to know you love them all the same, but they will be treated different.
6. Adversity Creates Stories
Anyone who has designed a bonsai tree has broken a branch clean off. It happens and it sucks. I just did it the other day on a nice spruce. It’s ok. That broken branch becomes part of the story. It’s what makes the tree one of kind. It builds character. The best dads let their children face adversity. Whether it’s a mistake I make or one that my child faces in the real world, I don’t mind a few challenges thrown their way. Failure, especially when experienced inside my cocoon of love, becomes part of their story and my kids need better stories.
“Measure your child’s progress in seasons, not days or weeks.”
7. Environment Matters
Ever heard of a micro-climate? The weather on your side of the street is different than your neighbors. In bonsai, that matters. We count the hours of daylight and the temperature of the shade. We understand the importance of the environment in the success of our trees. Great dads know the temperature of their kids and have an intimate knowledge of their child’s environment.
“You seem down, you ok?”
”Nervous about that test?”
”You can spend the night, but I need to talk to his parents first”
Great dads ask annoying questions. What’s the micro-climate of your child's environment? How is she feeling? Who is she hanging out with? The culture at your neighbors house is different than the culture at yours. Your child's climate matters.
As you can see, there's plenty of parenting to learn by practicing bonsai. Want to get started practicing bonsai? Learn about the meaning of bonsai in three minutes or less. And subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this page for all my bonsai related updates. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!