Hindsight Parenting: A Tale of Two Trees
A Tale of Two Trees
At my home, there are two trees. One, a flowering crab tree, planted in the backyard when Son2 was born. It stands near the gate of the fence that keeps the dog in and the unwanted out. The other, a magnolia tree, was planted 14 years later in the center front yard to celebrate the birth of my daughter.
The flowering crab is flanked by a pine tree. It is eons older and was here when we purchased the house, a leftover from some ancient forest long before a housing development was even a thought. Because of the way the sun rises and sets, that pine casts a shadow on my little crab tree season after season causing the crab tree’s growth to sputter and stall. Had I not been so young when the tree was planted, I might have seen that it’s roots should have been dug up so that I could replant it far away from the pine tree that shadowed it. It should have been cultivated in a more fertile ground where the light of the sun was unhindered. It needed a place to grow without the pine tree’s shadowy darkness.
But I was a newbie gardener and I thought erroneously that uprooting the tree would cause it harm. As the years went by my inexperience combined with the pine tree’s imposing and narcissistic stance hindered the proper growth of Son2’s tree. Trying to find some sunlight, it developed crooked branches and a twisted trunk always and forever trying to reach the height of that ever present pine tree. Seeing that it needed something, I tried and failed often to remedy the stunted growth. Sometimes, I pruned the branches too much. Sometimes, I didn’t trim it enough. Sometimes, I added the wrong fertilizer. Sometimes, I just gave up. But each spring, I had hope that whatever I attempted would make it so the tree would flower and burst into a glorious white-petaled splendor. But alas, the tree has never, to this day, flower to its full potential. Some springs there were more petals than others….but mostly, the tree stayed green producing a sporadic flower here and there.
However, the magnolia tree thrives. When we planted it, having more experience with what is good and healthy, we made sure that the soil we surrounded its base with was fertile. We read about the proper care for magnolia trees so that we could prune when needed and let it grow and change on its own when appropriate. We avoid chemical-based fertilizers opting for a more natural care routine. We water it if there hasn’t been much rain but also know that it’s sturdy enough to weather what mother nature sends her way. Most of all, we used the valuable lessons we learned about shadows to ensure that our magnolia tree could receive as much sunlight as it needed without having to contend with any other tree that would shroud it in darkness. About three times a year, deep pink flowers burst from an abundance of buds. It’s our picture place for Easter and Mother’s Day. Our dog, Charley, loves to lay underneath it and watch our daughter play basketball with her dad. We look forward to seeing those flowers in the spring and summer. The colorful tree provides beauty in a world that is often ugly.
A tale of two trees. One providing the world beauty in the form of color and pink petals and….well… one that doesn’t. A flowering crab tree that doesn’t flower. What does that mean? Is it defunct? Washed up? Useless? Shouldn’t we just cut it down?
I pondered these very questions the other day. I was having trouble writing this column and ended up standing on my deck gazing once again at that bare and unsuccessful tree. All was quiet except for a chickadee’s call that is ever present in our backyard in the spring. The repetitive nature of the bird call has always soothed me. Our daughter is enamored with it and often skips around the yard answering and mimicking the chickadee call in a quasi-bird conversation. This year, a mama chickadee even made her nest and hatched her eggs nearby Son2’s tree bringing several chickadees’ calls in stereo. It is the music of our backyard.
As if reading my mind, my husband said, “Did you know that those chickadees of ours are in our yard because they are love flowering trees?” I turned and looked at him. “Yup,” he said, “without that tree, we might not have those chickadees.” I nodded quietly, a warm realization washed over me and looked back at that tree, seeing it differently for the first time. The fact that it didn’t produce an abundance of flowers didn’t matter to the chickadees. That twisted trunk was home for them. Studying that tree with new eyes, I zoomed in on the swing that hung from one of its crooked branches. The branch, trying to reach the light, ended up being shaped like a body builder’s arm in a flexing position; perfect for hanging and sustaining a swing. How many countless hours had our daughter spent swinging and squealing on that swing? Right at this moment, as I close this essay, our dog, Charley, and Henry the cat lay underneath those lush green leafed branches at the base of the tree. In the afternoon when the sun is the highest, it is the only part of the back yard in the shade. I know that those animals are so very thankful for the cooler spot.
A tale of two trees. Both serving specific purposes. One providing beauty and respite from the ugliness of the world, greeting those who visit our home with a cheery disposition and pink petals waving. The other doing its part for the universe as well. Acting as shelter to our beloved chickadees bringing sweet music to our backyard. A tale of two very different trees; neither more useful or useless. Neither one better than the other. Both immensely loved.
[Photo credit: (cc) Brad Clinesmith]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with over 20 years experience, a mom to two grown boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, and wife to the love of her life. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. Logan writes a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around on the fifth Monday of any month.
What a wonderful essay. It makes me think that planting trees is much like parenting each child as they come along. We all start out new to the whole experience of parenting and learn so much as we go along, with each child. Learn about how to help them grow, how to nurture them. And how imperfect it all is. As much as we all try to do “the right thing” in the moment. And in the end, each child is perfect in their own right, in how they turn out over the decades. As they find their place in the sun or shade, their purpose in the world. Mine are now 31 and 25. Having the perspective of time now, really helps to let go of the perfection part and just appreciate them both both for the wonderful human beings that they have become.