Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Giving Me
When K was born someone bought us "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, it sits in her library with all of his other books (which I adore). It's the one book I never choose to read her, and the one book that never comes at the right time. She usually picks this one when D is out, (he usually reads to her at night and has been since she was born) after a long and exhausting day. A few years ago after such a day she asked for it, I obliged since it's always "kid's Choice," when I was finished she looked at me and said "Mommy, I love the tree, she's so nice and she gives that mean boy everything. Why?" I told her she does that because the tree loves him. She said that she didn't like the boy because he was mean and never said please or thank you. I think she might have been 4, a pretty keen observation for such a small child. She also told me that I probably don't like the book because of the same reason. She was sort of correct.
I never really thought much of this book, I mean I'm sure it sat in my kid library but it was never really a Top 10 favorite. Besides I don't remember my parents reading it or anything really to me as a kid, my dad worked too late (and I was in bed early). They divorced when I was 7 though, so I probably wouldn't have too many of those anyway. I don't know about my mom, can't remember any reading from her. I do remember her singing me a really pretty song when I was little, something about a little girl turning into a woman, OMG that was actually a nice childhood memory, cool.
So back to the tree. Every time we read this book it's at the end of an extremely grueling day, it's almost like K is taunting me with her book choice. She of course is not, she remembers that it was one I had as a child and we always discuss it when we're finished. If she does it on purpose, good for her and her young evil genius mind, she will do well in life :) Sometimes she's sad for the tree, sometimes she's mad at the boy and sometimes she asks how a guy can make a house out of sticks. I love these conversations because I get to see the book from a completely different perspective. I often ask her if she feels like the tree or the boy, she says she likes to climb trees, eat apples and play king of the forest like the boy when he's little but that's about it. I tell her that I feel like the tree sometimes and she just laughs, "you're not a tree Mama, you're a Mama." The innocence in her is something that I never want her to lose, I never want her to feel like the tree but I may be looking at this all wrong:
I look at this book probably like most parents do: The tree (parent) is selfless, giving unconditionally always putting the needs of the boy before anything. The boy (child) is selfish, greedy and never gives back. I feel this way often, I give my mind, body and soul to K daily, and sometimes I receive little in return. In fact after one of "those" days I actually feel like the old tree stump, except someone loaded that stump up with M-80s and blew it up. I need to do something about this, I don't need more branches or apples, I need a different perspective.
Maybe it's my fault for giving into K, for giving her everything I have and not keeping anything for myself. Maybe I need to stop doing everything for her so she can be more self reliant. Maybe I should look at it from the boy's perspective: he has a place to go that's safe, he has a place to get what he needs and in the end he has a safe and familiar place to rest. The tree is happy to oblige the boy, she gives her fruit, branches and then trunk, she does this freely and is only sad when she has nothing left to give. She is happy again when they can both simply spend their time together.
I suppose we should see ourselves in both the tree and the boy, and blame neither. They both rely on each other for sustenance and happiness. I should not expect K to say thank you every time I give part of myself to her and I should not expect her to to understand the responsibility of being a parent. Of course she should come to me with her needs and wants, that's what I am here for, where else is she supposed to go but her parents? Who else is going to give her the tools and skills she needs to become her own tree? To learn how to give freely of herself when she is older? The tree needs the boy just as much as the boy needs the tree.
In the end, after a lifetime of giving and receiving, the tree, now a stump and the boy, now a man, are now equal and will spend their time together in peaceful existence.
I am so reading this book to K tomorrow night, if only for the conversation that follows.
I better bring some tissues.