Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This is What Happens When Your Mother's an Academic

We were reading the iconic and time-tested story, The Giving Tree which both children really love. The simple drawings are inviting. The story itself is beautifully written.

But I had an epiphany a while ago that this tree must be a mother. She freely gives every part of herself away. She puts the boy ahead of herself at every turn. They go through their lives together, playing and learning. The boy comes to her when he's young and moves away from her as he gets older. In fact, he moves away from her and to another woman!!!! (Remember how he carves "T & Me" on the tree and then he starts carving some chic's initials?) The tree is happy when the boy is happy.

Then, I was reading the book at naptime the other day and I had another epiphany: I hope my daughter (and my son, for that matter) don't see this story as an example of how women should behave in relationships. This tree is very giving, but maybe she's just pathetic. Don't give all of yourself away! If all a guy ever does is take from you, run! This boy just wants to use you up, fulfilling his dreams. Then, you are left with nothing but a stump. But when he's needy and old, he shows up again--like you had nothing better to do than wait around on him!

I'll keep reading the book to them because they love it and so do I. But we might have to have a talk in a few years.

7 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

Somewhere I read that the tree is a metaphor for Jesus or God . . . but I'm not sure what Silverstein had in mind.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Ah! That makes sense. And it's a much less problematic interpretation. Let's go with that.

pocha23 said...

Mother nature? I need to get this book. How old are your children? I want to get this for my 4 year old. (And I'll be sure to have that 'talk' too!)

The Steel Magnolia said...

My children are 4 and 2. It's great for a pre-reader/beginning reader, too. I guess one just has to interpret as one see fit . . . .

cocoamamas.com said...

I've often wondered about the message in this story too. I've always just thought more about the emotion of it, that of unconditional love, which I suppose can be connected to either mothers or some sense of the Divine.

Ink said...

Good idea to have the talk, Steel! Because excessive giving/caretaker mode = therapy for me! So you'll be saving them lots of money if they can get the lesson about not giving TOO much early on!

The Steel Magnolia said...

Cocomamas: I agree. That idea is beautiful, just needs some context, I guess.

Ink: Noted! I hear ya! I'm sure I'll give them plenty of other things to talk about in therapy, so there's no need to add this!