I had a moment of rebellion yesterday morning. My parents were coming and all of us who are in town were getting together for dinner. I promised I would bring some watermelon, so I got everything together and got ready to cut up the little melon I bought on Saturday at the farmers market. I made the first cut and stood there considering its fleshy red insides. We bought it because it was labeled “extra sweet.” Apparently, extra sweet does not also mean seedless…sigh…. It was as I began to cut the fruit into pieces that my moment of rebellion took place. I decided NOT to remove the seeds.
Visions of the watermelon of my childhood flashed into my mind. Chilled in a galvanized pail of ice at the Sunday School picnic and cut into wedges, we kids enjoyed eating it and spitting out the seeds–sometimes at each other, it is true. Watermelon=seeds. Everyone knew and accepted this fact. Then came the seedless varieties. We all know they are not as good. Somehow, when you lose the seeds you also sacrifice the flavor– but it’s so convenient! Of course we modern Americans can also buy watermelon all year, cut up in neat pieces, seeds removed, and packed in re-closable plastic boxes. I love the stuff. It’s one of the things that makes winter bearable. So, as a result of biological, technical, and transportational advances, I found myself standing in my kitchen on one of my precious summer mornings feeling guilty at the thought of offering my family watermelon with seeds…and just rebellious enough to do it.
“BAH,” I thought, “If they want to eat watermelon, they can deal with the seeds.” And that’s when it hit me. This modern life has given us the ability to remove the “seeds” from so much of our children’s lives. We can protect; we can cushion; we can shelter; we can run interference; we can google, copy, paste, snap, email, attach, and pin for them. However, the day will come when they have to face the real watermelon, er, the real world. Will they recognize it? “Yuck! This watermelon must be bad. Look at all these black things in it. Let’s just throw it out!” I know that’s a kind of silly analogy, but as I read story after story of kids committing suicide in college, I have to wonder. If we’ve never left the “seeds” in life–you know, the little white ones at first, and then a few of the larger ones and later even the big, black, slimy ones, how are they going to deal with life as it really is?
I read an article earlier this summer about the issue of suicide in college. The author tried to make the point that kids feel too pressured by their parents to achieve and that this pressure eventually makes life feel impossible. I won’t deny that this might sometimes happen. It probably always has, but I have a feeling there are more times these days when kids get into real life and simply don’t have the coping skills to deal. They don’t recognize watermelon with the seeds, and they don’t recognize life with problems, challenges, and obstacles.
I don’t want to preach here. It’s difficult not to help our kids with every little problem. We want them to be happy. I still struggle with this and mine are all adults! It’s a challenge not to do everything we can to spare them difficulty and pain, but that’s exactly why I think we have to be intentional about it. While they’re young and flexible they need to start to learn to work out problems for themselves–the little kinds of problems, like the little soft white seeds in a melon. If we’re careful, and if we lead by example, I think we can eventually teach them to deal with the big slimy black ones as well.
We used to make watermelon-seed spitting into games–Who can spit one the furthest? Who can get the most seeds into the coffee can? Learning to handle the challenges of life can bring a sense of accomplishment as well. Of course, you couldn’t always turn spitting the seeds into a game. Sometimes we found ourselves eating watermelon in more formal and polite situations. What then? Well, we learned to be discreet, to spit them into our napkins or leave them in a neat pile on our plates. We enjoyed the fruit, and left the seeds behind with polite dignity. Some problems are just the same. They must be dealt with quietly and put aside. We move on, and we’re stronger for the struggle. In fact, life is actually sweeter because of the struggle and the victory…just like a melon is sweeter when it’s full of seeds.