By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I’ve been thinking a lot about Shel Silverstein’s book, “The Giving Tree.” You know the one where the tree starts giving parts of herself to a little boy. She gives him apples and branches to swing on and eventually lets him cut down her trunk and make a boat so he can sail away. When his life turns out badly, he returns to her to ask for even more and all she can offer him is her dead stump. He sits on her and she’s happy.
I’ve been wondering if Shel Silverstein (who seems to have had a wicked sense of humor) wrote this as a cautionary tale. I’m wondering if whether in its next edition, it should, perhaps, be subtitled as such.
This last week was a rough one. The kids were angry and tired and frustrated. They didn’t need to see the change in the angle of the sun or feel the slight chill in the breeze to know that summer was ending. All they needed to know was that in five, four, three, two… one day, school would start. This transition, as does almost any transition, made them cranky and needy.
Each day was a string of mood swings. They were happy to be eating a popsicle, but sad that they couldn’t have ice cream. They were delighted to meet a friend at the park, but devastated when we had to go home. When we saw a movie, they wanted to immediately watch television. When I played six games of Uno, but had to draw the line at seven so that I could cook dinner, I was labeled “the meanest mother in the world.”
I soldiered on. Like the tree, I handed out apples, let the kids climb me and hang out in my shade. But at a certain point, I began to get cranky, too. I waited for them to say, “thank you,” instead of “more,” and when gratitude came begrudgingly or didn’t come at all, I got a little glum. After all, I’d been cutting off my branches for these guys. I hadn’t been writing. I hadn’t been to yoga. I’d forgotten my place in my library book and couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten a lunch that wasn’t a quesadilla. In one short week, I’d somehow forgotten how to take care of myself.
Unlike the tree, all this giving did not make me happy.
On today, this first day of school, I took time to read the paper. I wrote a little and had a nice lunch. Every day, I will try to do these things. I will strive for a little writing, a little exercise, a little time alone with my thoughts. It will help me and help my kids.
I think sometimes the best thing we can give our children is the time we give ourselves.