Wednesday, October 26, 2011
It's All Shel Silverstein's Fault!
Do you remember the rest? The little boy starts to grow up and, once he becomes an adolescent and gets a girlfriend, the tree doesn't exist for the selfish little twerp except when he wants something.
First she gives him her apples so he can get money to "buy things and have fun." (She should have told him to get a job and work for it!) Then he comes back demanding help to build a house so he can have a wife and children, so the tree gives him her branches. (Obviously, he was too immature to even think of getting married.) Then, after abandoning the tree for years, the boy returns disillusioned wanting to build a boat so he can sail away and start a new life. So the tree gives him her trunk. (What happened to the wife and children? Imagine what it was like to live with the guy!) He disappears again, but shows up years later as an old man. At that point, the tree has nothing left to give, but the old man just wants a quiet place to sit so she invites him to rest on her stump. "And the tree was happy."
That tree should have been cut down and turned into doormats or mulch for the garden! Let her be walked all over without doing so much harm to the boy.
Yikes! Talk about enabling the worst qualities of a person: keeping him a whining baby, letting him strip her of everything without giving a thing in return! No doubt as he sat on her stump he whined and complained about all the bad luck life cursed him with. I'll bet he was a liberal!
The book is a product of the 60s and, I confess it with shame, I read it to my children and even liked it at the time. The theme was all over the place. I remember "giving tree" banners adorning the stage at a Christian Family Movement Convention in South Bend, IN in 1975 (where all the priests said Mass wearing non clerical garb and stoles). It was always turning up as a cutesy retreat theme.
The sick relationship between the tree and the little boy were all over the place teaching us to give in to every whim and demand of the selfish people in our lives. Is it any wonder parents today have adult children moving in to mooch and whine about their hard lives; they learned the lessons from Shel and his tree. And parents let their kids take advantage because they feel so darn guilty. After all, if the tree is a metaphor for mom, then we are obviously being told the way to show love is to never say no and give until we're an old stump.
So I blame Shel Silverstein for the selfishness of today's world. Parents fed their children The Giving Tree's poisoned apples from the time they could chew solid food. And just see where it's taken us. The Occupy Wall Street crowd expect the government to act like that dumb tree. In fact, the Nanny state is an orchard of "giving trees" except they give away other orchard's apples, not their own.
Maybe Shel meant the book as a joke and the tree was an exaggerated picture of the Jewish mother. Whatever.... Read the book to your kids as a lesson in how NOT to show love. The tree started out fine when the boy was little. I'm all for kids climbing trees and swinging in branches and making leaf crowns to play king of the forest, and eating apples. But once they're old enough to want money to "have fun" they need to earn it themselves.
If you have any "giving trees" in your yard, cut 'em down. And if you have the inclination to act like one, here's my advice. Lie down on the floor and tell your children to walk all over you. Let them stomp that inclination out of you in one, short session. Then stand up, and instead of being a "giving tree" be a "loving tree," remembering that true love is tough love.