Today's post is by a school chum of mine. She introduces herself more thoroughly in her excellent post. Read more of her writing at her blog: Classbookworm
Hannahlily asked me a while back about writing for The Giving Tree week because I'm a teacher and fellow bookworm. I warned her that I taught middle school, where cynicism and optimism are my constant companions. By that, I mean if you're not optimistic that the world works out for the best, you won't last long in teaching. But when your job relies on test scores of a student who won't try, you become a cynic. My job fits my natural personality anyway - I have a positive outlook, but primarily because I expect the worst and have a pleasant surprise when everything comes together. (My method may be madness, but it works.) Clearly, this attitude colors how I read a book like The Giving Tree.
If I read The Giving Tree as a child, I didn't have memories ofi t one way or the other. It was given to me by my mom when I asked for Shel Silverstein books for Christmas. I was in my early-to-mid twenties, and maybe slightly more cynical than optimistic when I first read it. Rather than being strongly pro- or anti-Giving Tree, when I recently read it I felt...
Like the tree.
Like the boy.
Like a martyr.
Like an ass.
Kind of overwhelmed.
Let's start with feeling like the boy: I grew up spoiled, never in need or want. I never worried about anything. I had both love and "stuff." I was a lucky kid, even though things weren't exactly idyllic. I don't think I drained my parents like the boy drained the tree, but seriously, who knows? The tree never told him until the end that it had nothing else! I think it disturbs me that I've seen so many people give of themselves with nothing in return. Those givers are people I admire- my gradmothers, my mom, my stepdad. But there are people (like the boy) who take constantly without any gratitude or anything given in return until the giver is practically gone, and then the ingrates still want. I worry about being that boy, that "ingrate." Will I call my dad if I don't need money? If I write this post for Hannahlily, will she give me a book recommendation? If I "let" my husband play MineCraft, will he "let" me go shopping? Like the boy, is something in it for me when I visit the tree?
Despite fretting that I am the boy, I totally relate to the tree. I'm not a parent, but when I become one, I know I'll be a giver. I can already see taht in my relationship with my students and, well, my cat. As a teacher, I pour myself out for my students. I've only been in the education game four years if you include student teaching, two separate semester interim positions, and my current position as a teaching aide. During my last interim, I got to thinking about my students and just started crying because after only three weeks, I lvoe them (mostly unconditionally). There are some days thoguh that you can put on a song-and-dance routine to get them learning, and they'll just look at you like, "I don't need prepositions. What else can you do for me?" You just stand there, trying to convince them that they need this, whatever this is, because that's all you have to offer, and you wait for their approach. Sometimes they avoid you for a long, long time, but when they come, you are happy.
I would go into my relationship with my cat, but let's face it: We all know when there's a cat in the house, you ARE the Giving Tree. (If there's a dog in the house, you're the bratty boy. Sorry. You know it's true. Honestly, I envy you.)
So, for a cynical optimist like me, The Giving Tree is an overwhelming book. I feel like an ass for all the times I took from others without showing gratitude...yest I feel that I often give of myself until I've passed the breaking point. To make up for being the boy in teh past, must we become the tree?