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Aug 03 2010

I am not “The Giving Tree”

If you’re joining from the Living My MoMent Summer Blog Tour, welcome! Somehow I was lucky enough to be given the very last day of the tour. It’s been a long summer, with a lot of wonderful blogs to read, so I hope you enjoy this very last post on this very last day.

My newly revised elevator pitch describes Laughing at Chaos as “an eclectic look at the absurdities and insecurities of raising gifted kids. And a bunch of other stuff.” Today it’s just all about me. For a change, it’s not about the hell of home repair or how my sons are driving me batshit crazy or even the continuing saga of Princess the PMSing Laptop/MacDreamy/MacDreamy2. For the record MacDreamy2 is happy and healthy and loves me because I turn him on every day. Bah dum dum. Thank you folks, I’m here all week, try the veal.

No, today it’s about something else. Something more…sinister. <cue campy bad guy music>

I cannot freaking stand the book “The Giving Tree.” I never read it as a kid, so when Tom bought it for the boys several years ago I was all, “Meh. Whatever.” I’m more of a Dr. Seuss person anyway. And then I read it. Oh my freaking God are you kidding me? Did Silverstein have mother issues? The first time I read it to A I was horrified. The tree/mother kept on giving and giving and giving and what the hell ended up a stump. A STUMP! A stump that became a seat for the boy turned old man. Even as an old man the boy took advantage of the tree. Hey, tree! You don’t need to keep giving like that! It’s ok to tell the boy to go away, I promise he’ll survive the disappointment. You are allowed to refuse to give the boy your apples to sell for money, to refuse to give him your branches to build a house, to refuse to give him your trunk to build a boat. The little shit never visited except to ask for more and more and more, so it’s ok to say no.

Being a mom is a lot like that tree. (Really Jen? Do you worship at the alter of the Goddess of All Obviousness? Yes, yes I do.) Our kids want so much from us and they’ll keep taking until we say no. No, you can’t have that. Why? Because it’s mine and you can manage on your own without it. I will shelter you with my leaves and feed you with my apples but I’ll be damned if I let you destroy me for a house or a boat.

It comes down to self-respect, and that’s where I have such a problem with this book. I worry that moms reading it think they’re failing if they’re not giving til it hurts, but even more, I worry that kids reading it think that that sort of dysfunctional giving is ok. And it’s not. There are limits, and limits are good.

I’m torn between quietly removing the book and reading it with the boys again to see what they think. Given the vast issues we have here with intensities and overexcitabilities, methinks it would be best to take the book out to a farm where it can happily live out its natural life make sure it’s in the next donation box. I just don’t think I have it in me to explain just why this book is insensitive and insulting.

And then I will bring out The Lorax…again…and feed their insatiable appetite to fix all things environmental.

But for me? I will watch this Second City clip again and laugh…because it’s true.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYQavD9mSIc

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18 comments

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  1. home tutors

    hi i liked the blog very much.

  2. melissaz

    That settles it. We have to meet IRL. I always had the same thoughts about this book. Not one of his better efforts I thought.

    But the Second City thing is priceless! 🙂
    melissaz recently posted…Maybe later…My Profile

    1. Jen

      Well, the chances of me getting to Austin are slim, so you’re just gonna hafta come up here. 😉

    2. Jen

      Shhh…nothing to see here. Just another test to see if I have fixed the comment replies. Mel will let me know if she gets this and then I can sleep well. 😉 Move along, move along…

      1. Jen

        Test. Yes, another test. 😉

  3. Holly - The Work at Home Woman

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for being part of the Summer Blog Tour!

    You make some really good points about The Giving Tree. I did read it as a child,and it always made me cry. I guess I always thought the book was about loving your child unconditionally no matter what they do. However you have put a whole new spin on it for me…

    Enjoy the rest of your summer, H
    Holly – The Work at Home Woman recently posted…Five Lessons for Our Daughters on Balancing Work &amp FamilyMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Holly, I can see your point. I never read it as a child, but my husband did and loved the book. I can see how a young kid would see the point of the book as unconditional love. Coming to it as an adult I saw it in a whole different light, and it really hit me the wrong way. There’s unconditional love and there’s being taken advantage of. I think Silverstein was walking a very fine line and didn’t distinguish that enough.
      Thanks for coming by, and enjoy the rest of your summer too!

  4. Nancy Campbell

    Amen, amen, amen. You know what that book creates? Really angry future daughters-in-law.
    Nancy Campbell recently posted…Playing GreenerMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Oy. Good point. Hadn’t even thought of that! Right now I’m trying not to piss off my future daughters in law by teaching the boys to PUT DOWN THE TOILET SEAT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY! If I can get that down by the time they leave for college I’ll call it a success. 😉

  5. Carole S. Bennett

    Wow! I never encountered that book while raising my kids, but it explains so very much about other people I know! My daughters and son were more likely to read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Shakespeare, sci-fi or suspense books. Well, that’s one less trauma they’ll have to explain to a therapist later on!

    1. Jen

      Bwahahahaha!!!! My poor kids have already unloaded on therapists, and the book was the LEAST of it. 😉 I think this book is happygobyebye and I’ll replace it with more classic literature. We already have quite the collection of classic kids’ books, but they’re starting to age out of Seuss and I think it’s time to start bringing in more Twain. 🙂
      Thanks for coming by, Carole! 🙂

  6. Sarah

    I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Very recenty I hve been thinking the same things about that story.

    1. Jen

      Tom knew how much I hated that story, so when he saw the video he had to share it. The story and this post have been rattling around my head ever since.

      1. Jen

        Shhh…this is a test. This is only a test. Just trying to find out if I borked up the comment replies or if I figured it out. Shhhh…nothing to see here…

  7. homemom3

    I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only mother that hated this book. Like you, I never read it as a child, when my child had to read it in kindergarten as a project I begged to borrow the book. I was upset to say the least, it was such a horrible story. The only good thing I got out of it is don’t use people, don’t let people use you. This should’ve been more about recycling because that’s what the tree is constantly being used for. Poor tree. My kids loved the book, I’m not sure why. But the book still is NOT in my house. I’m not normally a book snob, I like all books but I refuse to read that one to my youngest. I’m sure they will in school though.
    homemom3 recently posted…Day 10-15- 31 Days to a Better BlogMy Profile

  8. Ofthesea

    Insensitive, insutling AND a $%#@@# tearjerker. I will not submit my son to that misery-fest if i can help it!

    It does come handy if you have raging PMS and need a good cry, tho…
    Ofthesea recently posted…Reason 60 – I almost ripped my son’s penis offMy Profile

  9. Christina Garner

    Hi Jen,

    I have been reading your blog and have had a great laugh. To be honest, I never used this book in my own classroom. Just didn’t get the big picture. Now I do, LOL. So glad to have finally gotten to meet you. Have a great day on the blog tour!

  10. Lya

    Hi, I’m new to the site, but I wanted to offer a different perspective on this. Shel Silverstein is a fairly dark writer (you have only to pick up many of his children’s poems to be reminded of this), and I don’t think this is meant to be a cute book. I think this book is meant for the child to read and think about just how selfish this character is, how sad it is that he never thanks the tree, and how terrible what the tree put up with. In my mind, it is meant as a lesson, not to us, but to a youngster about how not to treat your mother and loved ones, and all of those who love you unconditionally. Just my 2 cents.

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