Daoud is suddenly 5 going on 8. He talks like a big boy. He asks follow up questions. He thinks more, and you can hear it, and see it, in his behaviour. Last week, he brought home “The Giving Tree” from the library. He wanted to read it before bed, and I obliged, knowing even as I started how this would go.
It’s been a long few weeks. Busy, exhausting, draining. The kids are always in need; and you want to give them everything, and then you find yourself spent and empty, and you try not to think about it; My friends at work and I say that we come to the office to relax. Joking-not-joking. And then Ayoub tantrums for 45 minutes straight at the end of a long day and I haven’t been able to answer Daoud’s thoughtful question to his liking and I feel like lying down, melting into a tired puddle on the floor and letting them get themselves to bed, magically, somehow.
So. The Giving Tree. About a boy who plays with a tree and loves a tree, and the tree loves him; and then he grows and he comes back and takes her apples to sell for money; and then he grows and he comes back and takes her branches to build a house for his wife and children; and then he grows and he comes back to take her trunk to make a boat; and all that’s left of the tree is a stump and she isn’t happy anymore.
I read the story, throat closing shut, tears streaming down my face, and my beautiful, thoughtful son listened, and watched me cry, and asked questions; I paused in the middle and cried into my own mother’s shoulder; I wondered if she felt like the tree, if I had made her feel that way. Meanwhile the toddler played obliviously around us, clueless to the tears, the heavy emotion, the story. And ten minutes later I was better and everything was calm and normal, but the story hung with me, like a fog.
Normally, we read the library book over and over during the week that we have it. Daoud hasn’t requested another read of the giving tree. I think he’s afraid I’ll cry again. To be honest, I’m afraid too. And I know it won’t feel quite as draining forever, but this age! This age where they need you and they suck you dry and you want to sleep but your brain won’t quite shut off, and when they do leave you be your heart aches! This age where you’re not yet ready for them to grow up and become their own people but so much of what makes them babies pulls you apart and wrings you, gnashes you, grinds you down. This age where you worry about every little scratch and bump and where tears are plenty. Is it less exhausting when they’re tougher? When the world has hardened them? Or does your heart just break for the babies they’ve stopped being?