I was at the library the other day and a friend of mine was reading The Giving Tree. She was planning to check it out (and still may have) when I commented about how much I hated that book. She looked shocked.
I am no stranger to having unpopular parenting opinions. I don’t like my kid to play pirate, I am totally anti-Disney, and I refuse to lie to my kid about Santa Claus. I’m not saying I’m a perfect parent by any means and I am sure I make plenty of choices that other people disagree with (like not insisting that he eat certain foods over others.) But good-natured teasing and judgment aside, I am still sticking to my beliefs. And not reading The Giving Tree to my kid is one of them.
Today, I stumbled on this article in my feed and I was so relieved to hear that I wasn’t alone in my opinion. Although I do love Shel Silverstein (and we regularly read from his poetry books) I do not love The Giving Tree. I think that it sends the message that not only is it ok to take and take and take from our someone who is offering, but also to not reciprocate or even say thank you. On the surface, the story is about greedily destroying nature for one’s own gain, which in and of itself is problematic, but the real issue for me is the personification of the tree and the message it sends about interpersonal dynamics. Four-year-olds will identify the tree with his or her parents or teachers or other adults and will believe that these people are only there to give. And give and give and give, even to the extent to which it destroys the giver. This is not the worldview I want my kid to grow up with. I know, I know. It’s just one book. But it’s not. It’s the compounding of problematic messages via books, movies, television, and advertising that I am trying to mitigate while I still have control of the reins.
I know I will change my tune on a lot of things as the timing seems appropriate. I’m not laying down any hard and fast rules; even with only four years of parenting under my belt, I know how unrealistic that is. I was the mom who wasn’t going to let her kid watch any TV and, well, we all know how that turned out. And I am the mom who swears that her kid is not going to Disney World, but who knows what will happen in another four or five years. (For the record, my biggest beef with Disney is that the messages of sexism, misogyny, racism, and classism are way too big for preschoolers to grapple with; yet, they are the target audience. Disney, in the name of making [a jillion] buck[s], thrusts troubling messages at little kids who are much too immature to properly process these things. I fully expect that my kid will end up watching and loving some Disney stuff. In fact, he has already seen a few of the more innocuous ones — mostly without my permission or knowledge until after the fact — but my hope is that I am able to stave off his Disneyfication until he is old enough to grasp some of the subtle messages being fed to him and have conversations about them. Maybe that’s overly optimistic of me, but it’s what I am hoping for.)
Aaaaanyway. So, yeah. The Giving Tree. Not a fan. (And since we’re talking about unpopular opinions about kids’ books, I also hate Love You Forever and won’t read that one to him either. It’s creepy.) Do you have any unpopular parenting “rules”? Any books you refuse to read or movies you won’t show?