A woman came out to our farm one day with her two little boys. They were really cute kids, but were they active! After telling her sons over and over, “Don’t touch! Stop running! Leave that alone!”, she had finally had enough. “Listen up,” she snapped, “if you kids don’t start behaving, I’m gonna leave you here!”
If Grandma Hole had been there, she would have said, “Never threaten your kids unless you plan to carry it out.” Calmly, but firmly, I jumped in: “Oh no you’re not!”
No matter how much you love children, if you’re in any kind of retail business you have a few horror stories about them (and their parents). With experience, you learn to intervene tactfully and stop trouble before it starts. But that does not come easily.
When we first started in the greenhouse business, we kept out bedding plants on the floor. Because they were in reach of little fingers, the plants often lost a few leaves or blossoms. One little boy had no interest in the plants themselves. He was more intrigued by the identification tags with their colourful pictures.
He went quietly along, carefully pulling them out of the packs of petunias. By the time he was caught, he had a tidy collection of 200 or so. The plants were ready for sale, but suddenly we had no way of telling what colour the flowers would be. We had to hold onto all of those petunias for an extra couple of weeks while we waited for them to bloom. In the meantime, we lost dozens of sales.
This boy was old enough to have known better, but we also had to accept our share of the blame. If kids are bored, they’re going to look around for something to do. If all they see is a bunch of plants, they’ll find a way to have fun with them.
There’s a very simple, two-part solution for making kids behave in this kind of situation. First, if you don’t want kids to touch something, for heaven’s sake keep it out of their reach. Our plants have been up on tables for many years now, safe and sound. Second, make sure kids have something interesting to do.
In our market gardening days, we encouraged children to play in our yard while their parents shopped. The moment a customer’s car stopped in our driveway, the doors would spring open. Boys and girls would pile out and race across the yard to climb in the trees or play on the rope swing—a wonderful sight! When we designed our current garden centre, we saved room for an outdoor play area, including a slide, teeter-totter, and other playground toys.
Even so, with the amount of time they spend following patiently along while their parents shop, it’s no wonder some children lose control. When I spot the danger signs, I walk over and put a plant in each mischievous hand. “Here’s a present for you,” I tell them. “Take them home and plant them in your garden.” They walk around with their plants, as proud as can be, and they can’t touch another thing.
Best of all, this little trick helps the parents feel calmer and happier too. As a result, they never even think of leaving their beautiful children behind!
-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer