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Four Dead Trees and Counting

Keith McCurdy
Keith McCurdy

I have this tree in my front yard; actually it is tree number four.  Several years ago while having a sewage line repaired, the root ball on a beautiful little Japanese maple was cut.  Needless to say it did not survive for long.  I have to admit, at first I was in denial.  I loved that little tree.  As branch after branch would die, I would prune it back and hope for the best.  This went on and on until one day a neighbor said, “If you are waiting for it to die, you are too late.”  In came tree number two, another Japanese maple.  It was a great little tree and looked fantastic in the front yard.  Two months later….dead.  Then came tree three.  Only this time I dug out and replaced all of the soil.  I talked with local experts and used the right fertilizers.  I prepared the hole and planted it with the root ball just above the ground.  I followed all the instructions.  The tree looked great.  Then my black thumb began to rear its ugly head.  First the tree had several limbs suddenly die.  Then it prematurely dropped about half of its leaves.  I was beginning to get suspicious that someone had it out for my tree.  Then the pruning began and what started out as a 7 foot tall tree ended up being about 4 feet high. The neighbors would watch from their windows, children would cross the street to avoid having to see the dying twigs in my front yard.  Then a friend said, “Have you ever thought about grass?”   I was insulted.  Now that I had become somewhat of a legend in the neighborhood for killing trees, I had to forge ahead.  To the nursery I went.

While picking out number four I ran into an older gentleman at the nursery.  When he heard me discussing my tree dilemma, which made all of the trees at the nursery want to scream “Don’t pick me,” he just laughed and said, “You got to love them to make them last.”   Although we were joking at the time, that statement is exactly right.  Anything that we want to have in our lives and enjoy for a long time, we have to actively love.  Doing the basics is not enough.

When I think about it, this idea is perfect for our children.  For our children to grow up and mature in a healthy manner, we have to do more than the basics.  Yes, feeding them, working hard to pay for their activities, providing transportation, helping with homework, and paying for college are all important things, but these are not enough.  If our desire is to have long-lasting and loving relationships with our children, then we have to go beyond the basics.  We have to remember that we have a very different perspective than our kids.  For the most part, we chose to have them.  They did not get a say in the matter.  This difference builds in an expectation on our part that of course they will love us, we love them.  From their perspective, it is a little different.  Whether we like it or not, we need to earn their love.

It is one thing for a child to respect, honor and even trust a parent, but to choose to love one is a more significant choice.   For a child to make this choice, they need to see that we go the extra step.  We don’t just take them to soccer practice; we stay and cheer and encourage.  We don’t just pay for things; we take time out of our day to do things with them.  In authority terms, our children are not equals with us.  In relationship terms, they are.  We have a hard time viewing them as such which gets translated by our children that they are not as valued.

We get to choose the type of relationship that we are going to have with our children.  It can be one that is respectful, civil, obedient, etc. or it can also be one that endures and is built into a long-standing loving relationship.  I often ask this question to parents, “What have you done this week to show your kid that you love them?  This act cannot have any purpose other than demonstrating love.”  I often get empty stares.  I personally can reel off a whole list of things that I have done for my kids, but it is hard to find things that have the sole purpose of loving them.  That is the challenge.  For the next month, do something each day to love your children.  Show them they are valued and valuable.

By the way, number four is in the ground and apparently doing fine.  I don’t know exactly how to “love” a tree yet, but I’m working on it.

By Keith McCurdy
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