The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree.


I fucking hate The Giving Tree. Like I haaaaaate it, you guys.  I truly think that Tree is partly responsible for the downfall of society. Controversial statement, I know. Stick with me..

So, The Boy is all I want this and I want that and I’m bored and I’m tired and I want mooooooooore. And The Tree is like sleep in my shade, eat my apples, take my leaves, my branches! Chop me down! My life doesn’t matter! And The Boy is like YES!  Then The Boy/Rude Man Baby is like Oh! I am so weary! and The Tree is happy to offer up her GRAVE. Come and rest upon my rotten bones! I am so desperately happy that you threw me this scrap of attention, even though you forgot my birthday and you never call. I am so glad you are here!

And the Man Baby is…asleep.

And The Tree was happy.

No. No Rude Man Baby. No.

I believe in sacrificing for my kids. I left my sister and newborn nephew and moved all the way across the country because Maryland is a better place to raise children that Los Angeles.

I lived with my in-laws on PURPOSE for probably longer than we should have because it was best for my son.

While my children are adorably coordinated in Gap Kids and Gymboree, I buy my clothes at the same store I buy my groceries.

We go without so our kids can have more. We want them to have better lives, easier lives, isn’t that the goal? But do we have to sacrifice ourselves into nothingness? And is that what’s best for our children?

It’s not that I don’t understand where The Tree is coming from, I want to give my kids everything. I want to put them in a happy bubble where whatever they want or need is immediately given to them and they never know disappointment or worse, pain.

But when my kids lose their left shoes (why is it always the left shoe?) almost every morning before school, my heart wants to tell them “hold on sweethearts! Mommy will find it, everything will be okay”. But I don’t. Because, no. I say ” where did you leave it last? This is why we have these baskets at the front door. When you take your shoes off, just toss them in the basket and you’ll know right where they are!” I say this every day, possibly for the next few years, because I know if they remember that I casually mentioned that I might take them to ToysRUs this weekend eventually they will remember to put their shoes in the basket.

Here is where my inner Tree monologue gets a little conflicted. I know it’s hard to be young, there is so much to learn but OMG every morning with the shoes! The going to school process is the same

So, I keep chipping away at it.

I also say abusive things like “You know where the cups are. You can get some water.” when faced with the millionth “I’m thirsty!” or “you have young, strong legs. Go upstairs and get your kindle your damn self!” I don’t say “damn self” of course, because I am not a total monster. And of course this has to be age appropriate. I don’t expect my 2 year old to do the same things as my almost 9 year old. I don’t say these things because I am lazy or mean, though sometimes it feels this way. I do thins because I want them to be able to identify a want or a need they have and take care of it themselves if they can. I also want them to know how to ask for help if they need it and that needing help isn’t a failure. So I don’t want you to think I don’t help them or support them. I do.

Truthfully I just want to cover them with love and kissed all the time.

Sometimes I do. I can be a Smother Mother to the extent I put Beverly Goldberg to shame. Which might be why my oldest loves that show so much, he identifies. I have stormed school offices, demanded things from doctors and insisted everyone cave to my plan for my child because dammit I am RIGHT, and no one better mess with my babies.

Perhaps what I hate about The Tree is that if I could do that all the time, I would. But it wouldn’t be right. Because Rude Man Baby.

If we do our job correctly, we parent ourselves out of a job. If we encourage, require and show by example, perhaps our kids will not only be able to get themselves a drink when they’re thirst but ask others if they would like one as well. 

If we do our jobs correctly perhaps they’ll be able to find both their shoes and get to school on time, and then college on time, and then a job on time, and then church on time, and then God willing, the hospital on time. Perhaps then, when they place that sweet grand baby in my arms I will embrace my inner Giving Tree wholly and completely without exceptions and my sons and daughter and their partners will roll their eyes at one another as I sneak the kids ice cream with sprinkles for breakfast and they will whisper to one another:

I fucking hate The Giving Tree.

Happiness is a how. Choose The Bigger Life.

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“Choose The Bigger Life”

That sentence jumped off the (ipad) page at me like a thunderbolt. Choose the Bigger Life. When I was young I would have thought that mean being an actress, living in LA and being successful. Then I moved to LA and was an actress…moderately successful commercial actress and yet…people, myself included, weren’t really living a BIG life. It’s the mindset of a struggling actor, holding off on life. Any moment in Los Angeles as an actor your entire life can change and so we all seemed to be waiting for that big change before we really lived. The big break that will change it all, the series regular, the ad campaign, whatever it is that will instantaneously alter your situation and so we wait, we stay in apartments, with mismatched furniture and roommates longer than others and I am NOT knocking this experience at all, it was great…but it was always on hold. Holding on because things would surely change any moment.

For now at least, I am not working as an actress, I am a mother, a writer, a photographer. And yet I still hold on. I still wait. My life seems small because my viewpoint is small.

Today I realized exactly how big my life actually is. It’s huge.  Sure, it’s the repetitive cleaning up of huge messes caused by three small people, but it’s also full of imagination, love, laughter and joy. It’s the possibility of the greatest pain ever and also the greatest happiness ever.

In The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin quotes Herman Hesse “Happiness is a how, not a what. A talent, not an object.”

Happiness is a how. Currently, I’m working on the happiness of how I look at things. I tend to get bogged down in the mire a lot, I am unable to see the forest for the trees and all that. I frequently focus on what I do not have and am unable to see the blessings I do have. Perhaps that’s why this book smacks me in the face so often with those “ah ha!” moments.  As soon as I was two chapters in I texted my sister and insisted she read it immediately. Recently she texted me back “I’m loving the Happiness Project, it’s a good balance for all my woo woo spiritual books lol” it truly did make me laugh out loud. Like many kids raised together she and I frequently have opposite compensatory skills. Being raised in Boulder raised the woo woo quotient considerably and she is able to be more open to it than I am. (For instance, the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up had me at hello, and lost me at thanking my socks for their service before putting them in the drawer to rest. Cause no. They’re freaking socks. Add the INDIGNITY of spare change being tossed into jars! And I was a hard pass. But the getting rid of clutter was A+) But that’s okay, because Gretchen’s number one rule of Happiness is to be Gretchen and thus mine is not to be Gretchen (Or Heather…which is hard cause I’ve been trying to be Heather since I was three) but to be STEPHANIE. Stephanie knows she tunes out of things get to woo woo but knows she will go to the ends of the earth to get Heather whatever woo woo thing she needs. Heather knows she resonates to the woo woo, she is more open to that, so that makes Heather happy. Heather must be Heather. (I’ve totally checked out a woo woo book or two on Heather’s suggestion and ended up finding a lot of value in some of them. BTW. )

So, my latest Happiness Goal is to focus on the HOW of happiness. This morning Pip woke before the sun and then took at a nap at 7:30 am. The boys were still sleeping so I took my coffee out to the back deck, under the umbrellas, the light sprinkling rain and the birds at the feeder the only sounds and I read. It was heavenly. I was so relaxed, I was afraid to move for fear of popping that tranquility bubble. But after an hour or so here came little Huckleberry, the Hucknado. I chose the Bigger Life and welcomed him with open arms and when he asked to swing on the swing with me pushing him (a task I do not particularly enjoy) I wholeheartedly said yes.  HOW I viewed this activity might make a difference. It did,. We laughed and talked and had a great time.  Just the two of us, in the cool morning with the rain gently sprinkling on us.

It is a big life indeed.