Giving Away

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Did you ever read The Giving Tree? It’s a children’s classic and written by a fantastic writer.

I truly hated this story.

If you’ve never picked up this book by Shel Silverstein, it’s about a relationship between a tree and a little boy. If you really want to read it, stop here. Consider this your spoiler warning, sweetie.

Okay, back to the book. The tree loves the boy so much and provides him branches to play on and apples to eat. Then the boy becomes an adult and he starts asking for things from the tree. Her apples are sold, her branches become a home for the man and his family, and her trunk becomes the man’s new boat. Finally, when the man is elderly, the tree provides him a place to sit because she is a stump, no longer a tree. The story ends: “And the tree was happy.”

The ending made me angry. Actually, the whole book pissed me off. Here was the tree, providing fun and food for this little boy and he grows up to be this demanding human being. The final straw for me was when she sacrificed her trunk for the man’s boat. When he sat on her lonely stump, I was ready to fling the book across the room, wishing that I could shove the old man to the hard ground so he could break his hip.

By the way, is this a normal reaction for a child?

In my young mind, the tree was a door mat for giving in to everyone of the man’s requests and the man was taking advantage of the selfless apple tree. It just didn’t seem fair to me.

Then I got older and started looking back at my own life.

I made requests of my parents when I was growing up and I’m not necessarily just talking about material things. I’m sure there were times when my parents wanted to be alone and have some time for themselves, but they often sacrificed it for the sake of my four brothers and myself. Like when my dad wanted to watch a football game in peace, but took me to Barnes & Noble to get a book I needed for English class. Or like when my mom wanted to take a nap, but had to endure being my audience when I practiced my clarinet. Or like when both my parents tried to revive my half-dead bird at six in the morning when they heard my loud sobs (that’s a story for another time).

Then there was the stretch of years when my parents had to help put together five science and history projects for their five kids.

The truth is I’ve treated my parents like the giving tree, draining them of time and money. Yet, through all of it, they never stopped giving to my siblings and me, even when it wasn’t convenient. They loved us so much, they were willing to give each of us so much of themselves, even when we were ungrateful brats. Because they gave us so much, I knew I could depend and trust my parents. To be honest, I told my folks about a lot of the crap that I was going through or thinking about when I was younger. I didn’t let them be privy to everything, but our lines of communication were open. Not many of my classmates or friends could say that.

One of the best gifts I ever gave my parents was to tell them this:

“Whenever I become a parent, whenever I become a mom, I hope and pray I can be half the parent you both were to me and my brothers.”

I still think the guy in The Giving Tree could’ve been more grateful, but I think I now understand why the tree was willing to give so much: love. It motivates one to give all they can, but the returns of the investment are worth it.

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