Be a Giver But Not a Doormat: Lessons from The Giving Tree

My favorite children’s book – or better yet, my favorite book of all time – is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. To this day, I cannot read it without crying. I mean big ugly sobs of feelings. The book should evoke some emotions, especially for women and especially for those who are parents.

In my eyes, the tree was the boy’s caregiver, his shade, and his protector. This immediately made the think of a parent’s role in a child’s life – or even that of a spouse or significant other. I think we can all relate and say we have been in a relationship where we give, give, give and get very little in return. This type of love is one-sided and draining. We too feel like dead tree stumps at the end and it is painful.
the-giving-treeThe book teaches a hard lesson in life. Yes, be a giver, be generous, but don’t be a doormat. Say “no” to that barefoot greedy little boy and keep some apples hanging sweetly from those branches! Of course as people we want to please and say “yes,” however saying “no” also teaches a lesson of boundaries. Boundaries allow us to keep  our own happiness and conveys to the recipient that we aren’t a giving machine with the flip always switched to ON. If you always say “yes” that is what people around you will expect.

Another great lesson in the book is that happiness for the tree wasn’t her delicious apples or her long branches, but the happiness from giving out of pure joy and love. So take a step back and really think about what makes you happy…it may not be the physicalities or the possessions but the interactions with other people.

In summation, don’t be a doormat and offer a child, spouse, or significant other the opportunity to take everything. Hold some love for yourself and learn it is okay to say “no thank you” or “maybe another time.” The world will keep spinning and you will teach the people in your life that you aren’t a “yes” machine. Keeping some love for you will make you a better person, a better parent and a sturdier “tree.”

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