Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Mom, did you cry?"

Just got back from driving our son five hours upstate to college this weekend. As we walked through the door, my daughter asked, "Mom, did you cry?" No I didn't cry. But my husband had to put his hands on my shoulders and sternly push me out of there. It was hard to leave. Now I have to just let my boy be. No whiny, needy text messages. No unsolicited advice. Let him call us. Whenever that might be.

Maybe I'll write more about the big college move-in later. I'm still processing it all. For now, I'll just say, when my son was little, he had a book called The Giving Tree. His best friend's mother, a gentle Japanese woman, gave it to him as a fifth birthday gift. Back then, I used to silently resist the story when I read it to my son. It was about a boy who took and took from the tree, wood and branches and bark throughout his life--for pretend play when he was a boy, for a boat as an adventurous young man, to build a house when he started a family, and finally when the boy was very old and frail, and he had taken all he could from the tree, the tree offered him a stump to sit on and rest his aching bones. And always the tree gave of itself selflessly, grateful simply to be able to offer something to the boy. Even though I got the painful beauty of the story, I used to think, How selfish this boy is. Why is he taking so much from the tree? Why isn't he giving anything in return?

This weekend, I finally understood that story as the perfect metaphor for parenthood. It is not about the boy at all. It is about loving someone so deeply that there is nothing of yourself you would not give to see them thrive, to see them happy, to see them comforted.

Now, belatedly, I am crying.


  1. Aww. You've made me teary too, and I don't even have a child.

  2. Just let it out girl! He'll be more than fine while you are in mourning.... but I guess that's the way life is designed.... I'm sure he'll give you much to be proud of.

  3. ellen and Deborah, my son has actually called a couple of times since I wrote this post. He's adjusting well, it seems. And though he astonished that they actually assigned him work already, he's happy right now. Which helps.

  4. seeing one's child off to college is such a major rite of passage - for both child and parent. it's been 12 years since we took em off to college - but I remember the day like it was yesterday.

    the giving tree - one of the BEST BOOKS ever!! only down side of the book for is that I can rarely make it through the book without shedding some tears!

    there is a handful of books that I believe every child (and person) should possess - the giving tree is among my group of must haves!

    happy to hear your son is adjusting well and that he's calling home!

    best to all of you!

  5. kimy, yes The Giving Tree would definitely be among those must-own books. Another one I love is Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. That's the one that makes me cry every time. If you don't know it, take a look. I think, as an artist, you would love it. Thanks for the good wishes!

  6. Okay, that is a better perspective. If I can keep remembering that, I should be alright.

    Thank you for this!