I Hate The Giving Tree.

Via on May 12, 2012
via Amazon

It makes most people’s favorite book lists.

I think it sucks.

I know, if you know me in real life—or if you know me through my writing—you know I’m a positive, upbeat, lovey sort of girl, most of the time. So I should love The Giving Tree, right? It’s all about love and giving and shiny happy hippie bullsh*t. (Yes, that is a bit of bitterness you note there. Deal).

Let me break this down for you another way:

Character number one gives and gives until she has nothing left.

Character number two takes and takes giving nothing in return, simply asking for more and more of character one.

And character number one is happy about this. Happy to give and give with nothing in return and no gratitude until she has nothing left to give. “Take everything I have. Take whatever you need. I don’t matter. Only what you need matters.”

What. The. F*ck.

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My brother tells me (almost daily) that there are two kinds of people: givers and takers.

I’d like to believe that many of us fall in the middle here. I know that there are some people in my life who both take and give. And then there are others…well…

I love giving. I was raised to believe that if you can help someone, you do. Period. So I do. I am a giver. Doesn’t there come a point though, where if all you ever do is give, there is no mutuality? If all you ever do is give, eventually all you are left with is a stump. Maybe the tree was happy with that. Not me, though.

I would tell a different story:

Once, there was a gracious willow,

swaying in the breeze.

But leaf by leaf

branch by branch

her voice was taken from her

until it was nothing but a whisper.

When all she heard was

“What you are saying doesn’t matter”

“What you need is not important”

It was an axe, chipping away at her beautiful bark

tearing her branches

until all that was left of her voice was one dark, sweet morsel of sap

stuck in her throat.

only a shadow of herself saying

“I told you so.”

 

So she took that last dark sweet bit of sap

cried it into the hem of her dress

and wrung it out to make ink

to write a different story that says:

Real love is nothing like The Giving Tree.

Love doesn’t strip you of your voice, your sense of self.

Love doesn’t break you, it builds you up.

Love isn’t give or take,

it’s give and take and give back again.

Love puts blossoms on our branches,

and invites birds to come nest.

Love is two trees with space in between

where we can rest and play in each other’s shade.

Like elephant love on Facebook.

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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19 Responses to “I Hate The Giving Tree.”

  1. JenG says:

    I agree with you. I have never liked the book; martyrdom is not attractive in the least.

    I was married to someone like the boy-turned-man who took and took, constantly asking for more; I willingly gave, thinking that was what I was supposed to do, believing that was what Love is, thinking there was something wrong with *me* for feeling resentment that all this giving was not "getting" me anything in return. Then feeling guilty for feeling resentful, since I knew I was at choice in the giving.

    So I read it to my brilliant daughters, and they didn't like it, either. They wanted to know why the boy is so selfish, why he took so much and didn't even say "Thank you" to the tree.

    At least 3 women are growing up knowing that doormat does not equal "love"….

  2. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    I haven't read the book, but I relate to this idea of giving endlessly, because I see it in SO many people. I also see the taking endlessly, and together those two sets of people create and perpetuate the pattern that is called Abuse – which, to my mind, is what our society is practically built upon.

    Real love to me has nothing to do with giving or taking. it's just about Being – being real, being present, being attentive. Because when you are truly present to the reality of simply Being (without fear), then there is a natural flow that takes place.

    Reminds me of this beautiful poem of Hafiz:
    "Even
    After
    All this time
    The sun never says to the earth,

    "You owe
    Me."

    Look
    What happens
    With a love like that,
    It lights the
    Whole
    Sky."

    You know – any time there's even a thought of 'give' or 'take', it's not really love. But when it just flows naturally, then there is nothing but love.

  3. yogasamurai says:

    Depends on the setting? Some relationships are "asymmetrical" – by design. Parents don't ask back "the same" from their children. It's not a peer relationship. If it is, it's unhealthy for both parties.

    Even with our peers, with some, we may be called to give, while in others, we generally receive. There are people who insist on "reciprocity" in each and every relationship, all in the name of balance – when they really mean control.

    There are passionate givers who are also very selfish givers because they always insist on giving – it's actually an ego trip for them. They even try to give when there's no need to – or their giving is unwanted actually.

    I think the balance comes from the overall flow of energy in our relationships. Ideally, you give freely because you receive freely. It should flow naturally, as Ben suggested. A lot of people do keep score though.

    Mothers? PURE GIVING. Parenting generally? PURE GIVING. Otherwise, don't sign up!

    Happy Mother's Day

  4. Shawna Turner Shawna says:

    I do like the Giving Tree. But I like your story better!

  5. melissa says:

    wow. after my post… interesting take.

  6. Abby says:

    I actually really like The Giving Tree–I have fond memories of my Dad reading this to me when I was little. But I also enjoyed The Taking Tree: http://www.amazon.com/The-Taking-Tree-Selfish-Par

  7. An Eighth Grader says:

    Well, I actually really like The Giving Tree. It is about more than love, it is unconditional love. It's not just that, The Giving Tree is a representation of how we humans are using too much from the Earth and destroying it without giving much in return. The boy represents the human race and the tree is Mother Earth – which explains her caring and motherly nature. Mothers would do anything for their children, which is what the tree does with the boy. She gives and gives even though she is losing her apples and branches.
    It is also a very sweet, yet sad book. That is why I like The Giving Tree.

  8. Rachel says:

    I can relate to this, and I appreciate your words – thank you.
    Just in relation to the comments on the Parent-Child relationship – I think the child does give. So much.
    I guess the definition of an 'asymetrical' relationship depends on what you think is included in what is being given.
    Children offer love wisdom and healing. And they receive often based on basic need, rather than a desire to exert control and power over another (in adults whether conscious or not).
    Parenting can be a bloody hard slog some days, but I find when I focus on what the child gives, just be 'being', the angst driven by utter exhaustion seems to disappate, and its all worth it ;)

  9. Tammy T. Stone Tammy says:

    i just posted an article that has a video version of the giving tree
    (http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/01/the-best-animated-ode-to-tree-love-tammy-stone-video/).
    i love 'the giving tree', though i understand what you're saying about martyrs. i always felt there was a lesson in 'the giving tree' about the way giving can be possible when you come from a 'higher' place of unconditional love, where no matter how much is taken off your back, the end result is still a gain for all …especially if we reconsider our patterns of consumption … but i love your story too!

  10. cathy says:

    thank you for this. I felt alone in how I felt about this book.

  11. YES YES YES says:

    You nailed it for me. Especially that short poem. LOVED THAT AND THIS POST. Thank you.

  12. haha! So far I've avoided reading it… I also hated "Where the Red Fern Grows." My second grade teacher read it to us and I was so crushed that the dogs died in the end I didn't speak to her for a week. What a horrible ending!

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