From Shel Silverstein to Religion: Surrounding My Daughter With Love

Have you ever read Shel Silverstein’s, “The Giving Tree”?

I read it to Ellie quite often.  She always gravitates toward the book, perhaps because of the bright red cover or perhaps because she can tell how much I enjoy reading the book to her.

In case you need a refresher on your children’s literature, I will remind you that “The Giving Tree” is a book about a tree that loves a little boy.  And throughout the boy’s lifetime, the tree gives the boy everything – her apples, her branches and then her entire body, until nothing is left but a stump.

At the end of the book, the boy is an old man and he omes back to the tree. The tree tells him she has nothing left to give and the old man sits on the remaining stump. And both are very happy.

This book is the best and most poignant analogy I have seen to date about what it feels like to be a parent.  The tree gave the boy EVERYTHING she had, and really didn’t want anything in return other than the boy’s affection.

* Note to Shel Silverstein fans: “Every Thing On It,” a new book of Shel Silverstein poems and drawings, unpublished until now, was released last month. Click here to read an excerpt!  (© 2011 Evil Eye, LLC)

© 2011 Evil Eye, LLC

“The Giving Tree” has had me thinking for a while about what I have, and what I want to give Ellie (aside from an apartment that is larger than 385 square feet).

Becoming a parent comes with a whole host of ethereal questions. Questions that for better or worse, pop into my head at 3am. Questions that I am left to answer on my own.

Of course, I am very grateful for the family and friends that have always been so genuine and candid when giving their opinions on parenting – but they are just their opinions.

How to raise Ellie is my decision.  My responsibility.

I have become very good at tackling these decisions, one by one – instead of trying to map out her entire life perfectly in one evening over a few glasses of red wine.  But just because I am tackling the decisions one at a time, doesn’t mean I don’t feel the weight of the responsibility of shaping a little human.

One of the questions I have I have been struggling with, is how to give Ellie the gift of spirituality or religion.  I was raised Catholic, but have also questioned certain policies of the church.  I’ve began wrestling with the question long before Ellie was born.  When I was 6 months pregnant, I was sent to the hospital with preterm contractions and one of the questions on the forms I filled out asked what religion I practiced and if I wanted a member of that faith to come pray with me.

I checked the Catholic box thinking, if something goes wrong, I will want all of the help I can get, even if I don’t agree with every detail of the religion.

Just a few months ago, I was walking through Times Square with Ellie on a Sunday, and I was having a…not so great day.  I decided to stop by St. Malachy’s  for mass and I left feeling better.  Not fixed, not cured, but better.

And I realized that the foundations of Christianity are something that have really helped me get through some pretty lonely moments.  Now I recognized that I can’t prevent Ellie from having her own moments of loneliness and struggle…but I can give her one more tool in her tool box to cope. It will be her choice what she does with it.

So to the surprise of many, I had Ellie Christened this past weekend.  She wore a beautiful white gown that has been in my family for nearly a century, and she was surrounded by my amazing friends and family, and the entire church.

In short, Ellie was surrounded by love.

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