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Friday, July 16, 2010

Am I the only person who thinks the Giving Tree should be banned?

Why J had to pick that bag at the book swap (see previous post), I'm not sure. But he did. He picked the bag with another copy of the Giving Tree in it.
My first thought was: we'll just give that away. Right away. We already have a copy of the damn book anyway.
But no. Jonas wanted to read it that night.
"Why don't we read Batman again?" I suggested.
But he pushed.
"Mommy cries when she reads this book," I warned him.
"Read mama," he said.
So I began reading.
And there was the little boy who loved his tree. He would swing on the tree's branches, eat her apples, and sleep in her shade.
(so far so good).
But then the little boy grows up and he needs money and he comes back to the tree who says takes my apples (the little boy is about 30 years old now) and the little boy takes his apples. And the tree's happy.
Then the boy comes back and he's middle aged.
"That's not a little boy," J points out.
"You're right," I say.
And the little boy who's a full grown man with a beer belly and less hair needs a house and so he takes up the tree's offer to take all her branches as wood for his house. And after the little-boy-turned-pearshaped-and-balding takes the branches the tree, again, is happy.
(still, no tears...I'm gonna make it!)
Then the little boy who is very old now comes back and wants a boat and the tree offers his trunk, which the elderly little boy takes and the tree (to this reader's horror) is left nothing more than a stump but still happy (although not really.)
Then the little-boy-near-death-old returns again and the tree apologizes saying, "I have nothing left to give you, My apples are gone..."
"Where'd his apples go mommy?" J asks, and the next thing you know I'm bawling like a baby, snot running out my nose and J says, "Can I go see daddy?"
"Of course," I say, half crying, half laughing.
I can't help but wonder: Is it just me? Does anyone else cry when reading this book to their children? Does anyone else wonder why Shel Silverstein had to go and write such a damn depressing children's book?? I know it's supposed to be a lovely tale for the ages but I would much prefer a revised version where the tree says to the boy-man, "Stop being such a selfish brat and go out and make some money to build your house and your friggin boat!"
That would make me very happy.
Now does anyone want a copy (or two) of The Giving Tree?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Swappers BEWARE!

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A book swap instead of presents for J's third birthday party. Although I had never attended a party with a book swap, I knew they were pretty popular around here. In case you are not familiar with book swaps, here's how it works. Each child who attends the party brings a wrapped book, At some point, all the kids sit in a circle and each kid gets to pick a book to take home.
A nice concept, right? One that screams: "We are not a shallow family! We are deep! We value literature, not meaningless toys!
Here's where this line of thinking backfired. WE equals parents. As far the kid whose birthday it is well, that's a different story.
Perhaps if E had a book swap first, things would have been different. But at E's birthday in January, it was all about the presents. It was all about transformers, Spiderman, hotwheels, you name it. I remember J watching in awe and envy as his older brother opened all those presesnts.
I suppose as his birthday approached he thought in what is now becoming the usual, ongoing sibling rivalry (are children just born knowing how to say "Na na na na na"?), now it's my turn.
Then came the party. As the guests arrived and the wrapped books piled up, Jonas got excited. "Look at all these presents for me mama!" He said.
"Well no, sweetie," I explained. "These are for all the kids."
He stared at me blankly.
"Where are my presents?" he asked.
"Well you already got lots of presents, you know, from me and daddy. And Nana."
Again, the blank stare.
Later, after the party, J was still searching for his missing gifts. He'd see an empty bag. "Is that my present in there, mommy?" Even a simple scrap piece of gift wrap induced longing. "Is this mine mommy?"
"Well no honey, but look at the great new books you got from the book swap!"
"Yes, mommy - a batman book!"
"Yes!" I said relieved, thinking his sadness, his feeling of being ripped off had passed.
Then, the next morning on our way to school, he asked what his friend Kyle gave him.
"He brought a book," I said.
Then E had to chime in and say, "Justin got me a spiderman for my birthday" and I snapped in typical mommy dearest fashion: "No more talking about birthdays! What does it matter what Justin got you anyway?" In the rear view mirror Ethan looked stunned.
But the worst was four days post-party. We're driving in the car when out of nowhere J says, "I didn't want all my friends to take my books at my party."
I wanted to cry. I'm still not sure which one of us is more scarred from this whole swapping experience: him or me.