grow the tree you have

Jun 23, 2010

I am reading a great book and it has a chapter in it called “Grow the Tree You Got” that gave me some big food for thought today. It talked about a man who had a gorgeous Kentucky black oak tree growing in his yard, but he yearned for an Australian acacia.

Every time he looked at the oak he saw that it didn’t have purple blooms and it didn’t let the sun stream through his yard the way an acacia would. He didn’t appreciate the strong branches of the oak, the beautiful colors of the leaves, the cooling shade it offered to every passerby. He didn’t notice how the oak’s root system nourished younger trees nearby.

The oak cannot do enough to please the man and soon the man doesn’t even see the magnificent tree when he comes home. There is a gift waiting for him in his front yard every single day, but he does not notice it.

From Parking Lot Rules & 75 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Children by Tom Sturges

He only saw what his tree didn’t have and was not able to appreciate or be grateful for what it did have.

The author applied this to parenting and opened my eyes. He talks about how sometimes we do the same thing to our children. We have expectations, hopes, and desires for a certain child and when we don’t have that child we fail to see the wonderfulness of the child we do have.

I think in some small measure I have done this with my oldest. I have always adored her. She completely changed my life by making me a mother. I nursed her for over three years. I spent years being her mom with no one else around. She was with me every day and we had a delightful time going on walks, discovering bugs, reading for hours and hours, talking to all sorts of strangers on our journeys, going on bike rides, cooking up concoctions she could eat in spite of her allergies. We were completely in love with each other.

But then she grew up and I had more kids and she didn’t have all my attention and she wasn’t like what I thought she would be. I thought she would be like me and well, she wasn’t. She was a tad introverted. She thought artistically, not logically. She felt things deeply, but then she wouldn’t talk about them. She kept her ideas to herself. She wanted to be alone for hours at a time. She didn’t like being the center of attention and I embarrassed her constantly because I simply could not understand that facet of her personality. She was a slow reader. She held grudges. She created worlds in her mind and often went there to live unbeknownst to me who was treating her as if she was still in my home and thought she should interact with us. She had thin, breakable hair that seemed beyond my abilities to do anything with. She had oily skin that needed to be showered, washed, and pampered to stay on an even keel. She didn’t laugh at the same things I laughed at. She didn’t love math the way I love math.

Sometimes I saw these things as huge deficits. Things she didn’t have, couldn’t do, wouldn’t be. But really they were just things I couldn’t understand. They were things that weren’t like me. Things that seemed frustrating because they were out of my realm of experience.

Sometimes I saw them so much I couldn’t see the beauty and the wonder of who she was.

Who she is.

She is passionate about freedom for all of God’s children. She believes in standing up for truth. She has the soul of an artist. She moves with grace to the music of her mind. She has beautiful laughter and a lovely smile. She has the ability to be friends with all sorts of different types of people. She taught herself how to crochet and then makes things…like slippers, headbands, and gloves…just by looking at some and then figuring out how to do them. She is not afraid of doing things imperfectly. She stubbornly does what she sets her mind to. She is an amazing swimmer. She has a lovely body. She taught herself how to sew. She is clear about who she is and what she stands for. She is not afraid to do hard things. She is modest. She is funny. She has a beautiful singing voice. She has a flare for fashion. She has amazing curly hair. She is a great babysitter. She loves the Book of Mormon. She is strong. She is determined. She is resilient. She can draw for hours. She sees beauty that I miss. She is a deep thinker.

She is not me. She is not who I thought she would be.

She is her very own self and I love her.

I need to figure out how to send that message to her on a consistent basis and not focus on what the oak tree lacks.

Grow the tree or the child you have. The one you were given and not the one of your dreams. It will make all the difference.

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  1. jessica

    This is beautiful Tracy. I think I’m good at appreciating my children for the trees they are but not very good at appreciating my own tree. All I see is what I lack.

    Did you go hiking? Did you get rained on?

  2. Anne

    Oh my goodness. This is so painful to read. I’ve totally cleared out the forest because of my lack of sensitivity to trees. I’ve hewn down/or and hurt trees that tried to grow under my care. And my own tree? I’ve never seen the good in that one. But I’m taking a class to help me work through and learn better cultivating, grafting, pruning, watering, appreciating, and enjoying imperfect trees in my garden. Thanks for these thoughts.

  3. tracy

    Ahhh, good point! Appreciating the tree we are is perhaps even more critical!

    We did go hiking and it was a blast! We took our new dog, Sadie, to see how she would do on a hike and if she would drive us all crazy with splashing us, getting into our food, knocking little ones off the trail, etc…SHE DID GREAT! She is a keeper! We did get a few sprinkles, but no big deal. We stayed up there till 6:30, so it was a pretty long outing. We had a 4 foot snake slither right next to us, another snake jumped out at Keziah as she was running, and we caught a lizard.

  4. jessica

    It sounds and looks like such a great outing. I’m so tired of being ill :( I miss out on everything. Planning on going up for the ward camp out hope I don’t blow up again!