Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Giving Tree might need counseling

Almost all of you have read "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, and like me, many of you probably own it. It is a story that warms our hearts and makes us feel good inside, right? Well, have any of you really taken the time to think about the story and why the giving tree is actually a bit codependent tree lacking self-worth :)?
I'll give you all a reminder/cliff note version of how the book goes. There was a little boy who loved playing around/cllimbing this tree. The boy gets older and doesn't ever visit the tree. He comes back and the tree offers its' apples for the boy to sell, because the boy wants money to buy things and have fun. The tree is happy. Then the boy comes back when he is older and doesn't have time to play or enjoy the tree but jumps upon the chance to take the tree's branches to build a house when the tree offers. The tree is happy. The boy comes back when he is an old man and wants to sail away on a boat. The tree tells the boy to take his trunk to make a boat. The tree was happy.. but not really. After a long time the boy comes back. The tree is depressed, because he has nothing left to give the boy. The boy says he is too old to do anything anyways and that he simply wants a place to sit. The tree is excited that the boy can come and sit on the stump that is left. And the tree was happy.
So, I ask all of you.... was the giving tree a bit too giving? She gave literally everything that she had to the ungrateful kid who never really seemed to show much gratitude and only came around when he needed something. Couldn't the boy given a thank you at the very least? This book makes me think about the sacrifice a parent makes. We love our children. We would do anything to make them happy. Is it possible that giving them everything may be doing them a disservice? Maybe instead of just handing a kid a bunch of apples to go and have fun with, the kid could get a job or an education so he really appreciates what he has. I know the whole point of giving is not to think about what you will get in return, but dude, couldn't the boy just have at least seemed a little more peppy when he came to suck the tree dry of all of it's assets? Okay, that is my rant. Sofia likes the book... so I very well may continue to read it to her, and maybe we can talk about the message a little bit. Has anyone else every noticed that the message is a little confusing... even it though it seems to warm our hearts.. or am I just reading into it things more deeply than Shel Silverstein ever meant? Well, either way....I still think the tree has issues , but don't we all :)?


Margaret said...

So, when I was taking a child curriculum course they specifically pointed out this book as a negative thing. I was ticked because I had loved it.
But they pointed out what you did, that the tree enabled the child to be ungrateful, and also that it was sexist since the tree was a woman giving everything she had to make a man happy.
I don't know if Silverstein meant for the hidden agendas or not. But it is interesting how things can be interpreted.
So now I always have mixed feelings on that book.

Jeff or Amanda Nemelka said...

I remember reading this book a bit as a kid, but don't own it and have never read it to Chance. Hmmm...something to ponder now. I think as a parent our job is specifically NOT to give kids everything they want. They want to eat candy all day, stay up late, pee their pants, etc. Obviously, this isn't what's best for them and we are the ones to teach them. Now...whether or not they would connect the tree to any negativity, I don't know??


Karli said...

I am SO with you. We read this again the other night and I was distressed by the same point. Isn't it funny how parenthood gives you such a different perspective on things? Although, I will say that as a kid, my take-home message was that I wanted to be like the tree, in that I wanted to be able to give unconditionally, and I saw the tree as the hero (heroine). So, it's probably still a good children's book.

BUT, as an adult I do think the tree is a little co-dependent, and not really doing the boy any favors by giving him everything he asks for. What is that teaching him? But then again, if we're relying on a tree for our entire well-being, we've got bigger issues to deal with.

adrienne said...

We have this one and read it occasionally. I'll admit that I'm not crazy about it. I think it's a little over the top in the "warm fuzzy feeling" department, but in general I like Shel Silverstein. I don't think I read this one when I was little though. I definitely think you're right about the message being a little off, but I also think that one book read occasionally won't overshadow everything else you teach your kids. And they won't get the self destructive giving out of it until they are much older.

Miss K said...

kara, i am so with you. being a co-dependant person i think it is good to teach your children how to give but also how to balance the giving and taking. we need more stories that are reality stories. i know that i take stories that i've heard and learned far too literally...but maybe so do children. and to me it's sad that the tree had no inner happiness. what a bummer. love you kara!

Katie and Bryson said...

Keeping it real, Kara :) I love your posts. I always fall prey to an innocent little hit-below-the-belt sappy story in the children's section. Time to set some healthy boundaries, giving tree.

judyskinner said...

When my kids were young we became friends with a family who had a lot of children and lived on a farm. They were well behaved, but always were busy doing chores etc The father of the family told us once that he kept his children busy working because "you love those you serve." I think he was an insightful young farmer. love aunt Judy