Tuesday, May 21, 2013

STUMP: My Love/Hate Relationship with "The Giving Tree"

I had every intention when I wrote it on the calendar in magenta Sharpie marker.
Doctor's appointment.  Gynecologist.  Dentist.  Eye exam.
Permanent ink has all the right intentions and even hint of swagger.  Plans written with so much more conviction and confidence than those that are hesitantly penciled. 
Yet nonetheless crossed-out and rescheduled every time.

"Can I reschedule that appointment for a later time?  My son has the stomach virus.  Next week?  Field day, then a track meet, then..okay.  I will call you in a month."

Maybe.  If I remember. Or if something else comes up. I'll get to it eventually, right?

I know so many of us who do this--always trying to rearrange our own well-being to fit everything we we need to do and everything we think are expected to do--and everything that we think others think we need us to do.


For many years, I have had this stormy relationship with Shel Silverstein's classic children's book, "The Giving Tree" which chronicles the lifetime relationship between a boy and a beloved apple tree.

The boy has needs--and the tree is selflessly accommodating. 

In my idealistic twenties, I loved this book, treasuring every heartfelt token that the tree generously gave to the boy.  Branches, apples, every useful splinter of wood--you name it.  Take it, use it, help yourself--no questions asked. Unlimited refills.

Shel Silverstein could do no wrong with his message of generosity.

Or could he?

There have been many nights that I have read this book to my own boys--who have also delighted in this crafted tale of give and take.  

"Read it again!" my middle son would always ask.  And I would, with a lingering lump in my throat every time I got to the end.

That tree had given it her all.
Until she was a stump.

Oh, Shel Silverstein.  
It's not you, it's me. 
My feelings have changed.

So many of us have an inherent nature to give--but at what point does it become self-sacrificial?

That beautiful, towering tree--with all its admirable qualities and its benevolence--ends up a stump with very little left, devoid of any outstretched branches or dazzling blossoms.

Throughout the years, I have learned that perhaps one of the best gifts I can give my sons is the example of caring for myself by taking responsibility of my own health and well-being.

If I hand over everything all the time, would I be an effective mother?
I wrestled with that airplane "oxygen mask" scenario my whole life.
I used to question why a mother would give herself oxygen before she would give it to her own child.

Until I had children myself.

We need to keep just some of those branches and leaves for ourselves and allow our children to discover the importance of self-care--whether is physical or emotional.  

My hope is that my sons are generous of heart--but also great caretakers of themselves.

In the end, I think my boys are happy to be surrounded by the security of a flourishing tree.
While I still struggle with making all of those appointments, I have really adjusted my thinking about my health and the message I send to my boys.

After all, it is in giving--both to others and to ourselves--that we truly receive.
Orange--often associated with good karma and health--is GORGE for summer.  Love these Ralph Lauren 

Fatythe High Heel Platform Sandals.  Enjoy every step! xo, K