I read The Giving Tree for the first time since becoming a mom last night. I had one boy on either side of me. Bennett was half sitting on my lap and slightly rubbing my arm softly with his tiny hand. Boston had his head full of messy curls resting on my shoulder. We were all squished on his tiny toddler bed with only the night light on. I told them I would read only one book. They both whined and said, “But we want two books and a story and why won’t you play with us more?”
Feeling slightly exhausted, I opened the book and began to read to them.
In the book, the tree loves the boy. The boy plays on her all day, and she loves it. She happily offers him her apples when he grows into a young man, and he sells them for money. She gives him her branches when he comes to her needing a home, and although she doesn’t look as beautiful as she once did, she feels happy. Later, as an old man, he takes her whole trunk to build a boat to float away. She is left as only a small stump.
She was happy, but not really. She was alone, with nothing left to give.
He comes back to her many years later, but she says she has nothing left to give.
He says all he needs is a place to rest. She stands as tall as she can and says, “Rest here on me.” He does. And again…she was happy.
All day long my boys play on me. They crawl on me, over me, jump on me, wrestle me.
When they are hungry, they come to me and ask for food. I feed them and then clean them and then feed them again. My boys come to me wanting shelter, wanting to feel safe by me. Safe from a hitting brother, a scary movie, a big spider, the feeling of being lonely. My arms offer them a home. My boys come to me when they need a little extra courage to float farther from home than feels comfortable on their first day of preschool or when meeting a new friend.
Sometimes I feel exhausted after offering so much of myself every day, all day.
I finished reading the book and tucked my boys in bed. Bennett didn’t want me to leave and cried as I turned off his light. Boston tried his best to get one more treat or one more story or one more book. I went downstairs to the kitchen to clean up the last of their dinner. I felt happy, but also… It is hard to give my all, and still feel like they are needing more. They are not quite satisfied.
At midnight I heard Bennett cry out my name. My husband went in to check on him. He came back after a few minutes and said Bennett only wanted me. I thought of the giving tree. Only a stump left at the end of the day, I got out of bed and went to his room, thinking I had nothing left to give.
I stood over his crib and in the small glow of the nightlight I saw a tiny little smile as he realized Mom had come. He held out his little arms. I asked if he needed a love and he just smiled bigger. I picked him up and wrapped his warm little pajama body around me. His legs curled around my hips, and his arms hugged me tight. He laid his sleepy smelling head on the crook of my neck and immediately fell asleep. I sat on the rocking chair and held him for a long time.
I was happy.
I think always having something to give is better than having nobody to give to. Happiness comes from how you look at things. I hope my boys always come back to me, even as grown men, just needing a safe place to rest.
I can always give that, and that makes me happy. Because once there was a mom, and she loved her little boys.