What books did you love as a child? The Giving Tree was one of my favorites. Now as an adult, I learned the remarkable power this beloved classic truly carries. As I was reading it to my own children, a new level of interpretation arose. A much more complex yet meaningful metaphor.
I originally thought this would be an excellent book to align lessons of selflessness and on the importance of giving to others. Children now a days need books that build character traits such as charity, empathy, tolerance. Little did I know a profound and personal alignment awaited me.
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk…and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave.
I could tell you all about how selfish and ungrateful the boy became, but instead I want to focus on the tree. The tree is an example of what selflessness embodies. She loved the boy and wanted nothing but for him to be happy in life, even if that meant sacrificing her own happiness.
As the boys and I were snuggled up together reading the book before bedtime, I began to comprehend the metaphor Shel Silverstein perhaps intended. What if the tree was a symbolism for parenthood? The bittersweet journey of raising children only to one day let them go, while hoping they will remember and return every now and then. The image of my mother and father appeared in my mind as I reminisced all their sacrifice and hard work. I imagined how they wished to have stopped time once in a while in order to keep me as their little girl. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes.
Both my sons gasped when the boy cut down the tree’s trunk to make a boat and sail away. My youngest proclaimed, “How sad mommy! Why would he do that to the poor tree? She loves him!” While my oldest’s face turned to a sad like disposition, I explained, “It was the tree’s idea to cut down her own trunk. She just loves the boy so much. She doesn’t mind giving him all she has in order to see him happy.” My oldest immediately stated, “Yes, but he keeps taking from her without caring. He goes away for a long time and comes back only when he needs something. That is not right.”
As a little girl, I remember how I disliked the boy’s character as he began to grow up. I could see how my children resonated with this thought. My heart overjoyed as I envisioned them one day reading this book to their own children and rediscovering the meaning between the pages.
Perhaps even catching a glimpse of their mommy wanting to stop time to read with them a little longer.