Tag Archives: be gentle

A Guide to Growing Stately Trees Comprised of Two Instructions and an Admonition

Instruction: Bend the Twig
If you want to grow a stately tree
You usually start with a tiny sapling,
Although some people grow their trees from seeds.
This is not an easy thing to do.

They say that as the twig is bent so grows the tree
And I think this is probably true.
So young saplings are snipped and pruned to give them shape and character
And staked out to give them rectitude.

And I think this is good and important to do,
Up to a certain point.
But who hasn’t seen and pitied dwarfed and stunted trees,
Crippled as saplings to please the grower’s sense of beauty, or ambition, or convenience.

Oh, and one more thing:
You can’t make an oak tree out of a willow sapling
No matter how much bending or binding
No matter that you desperately want an oak tree and you’ve been given a willow twig

Instruction: Hug the Tree
And then of course at a certain point,
Which admittedly varies from species to species,
The twig cannot be bent or staked out further to any good purpose.
It has become a tree.

It has become shade to someone weary from the road,
A refuge to those seeking solace, or a place for visionary youth to pray.
It has found its own reason for its existence
Fulfilling the promise of the seed and the shaping of the sapling.

What then? What more does the tree need from you?
Well, and this is important, trees never lose their need for warmth and belonging.
They need support to brace their sagging branches from the burdens of too much to bear,
And time-tested remedies to fight the infestations and blight that will surely sap their soul

They need to know that they are part of a forest,
That they belong to a family of trees,
These graceful willows, flamboyant maples and sturdy oaks,
And that this kinship of family extends forward and backward beyond the reckoning of time.

Admonition: Bend the Knee
Finally, a gentle word of counsel to you who would grow trees.
Give thanks to the Lord of the Forest.
Give thanks for the seeds.
For the soil and moisture that nourish them;
For the seasons that refine them,
And for entrusting us with their care.
For the forest in its majestic splendor,
For the music of the breeze in its leaves,
Its diversity of colors and shapes that give it beauty and purpose;
And for the Sun, its eternal beckoning call to seeds and saplings
To leave the frozen ground and reach for the warmth and light of the heavens above.

M.T. Bentley is a professor, consultant, and father of four children.


Letter to Myself

Dear Allysha in 2002,

On the 23rd of this month you will have your first baby, a girl. You will love her and adore her. You will be in awe of this little person who is completely dependent on you. You will be so tired. It’s okay. You’ll do fine. You’ll survive the sleepless nights with a few good movies that you watch in 10 minute segments while your baby eats. (I suggest the A&E Pride and Prejudice.)

In six years you will have not just one, but four little kids. “Yeah. Right,” you say. But it’s true; you have three who run around crazy and free and a baby just learning to crawl. All of them have the capacity to be very loud. Occasionally you’ll find yourself looking in the mirror at your reflection and saying “I have four kids.” Don’t be surprised if sometimes your reflection laughs and says “yeah, right.” (You will have figured out how to nurse your baby in bed while you doze, so that’s something!)

There are days when you will feel overwhelmed and be absolutely exhausted. Little children are demanding and require a lot of hands-on, in-your-face work and attention. But if you let them, your kids will teach you to be more selfless, patient and loving than you could otherwise become. Let them teach you. It’s okay. Pray a lot. You’ll do fine.

Your children desperately love you, but not enough to learn how to do the laundry right now—except for coating it with their yogurt from lunch. Just take the shirt off and throw it into the hamper. If it’s just too much—and sometimes smeared yogurt is—grab a pillow, go into the bathroom and shut the door, and scream into said pillow. Then make a face at yourself in the mirror as you go out and hopefully, chuckle ruefully.

Being a parent is about seeing both the forest and the trees. You have to pick your battles keeping the future, as well as the present, in mind. It’s not easy. Chocolate milk may not be the evil you think it is. Just limit the chocolate to milk ratio.

Avoid the ‘me vs. them’ tug-o-war. If your priority for the day is your children, you’ll all be happier. Let them help you with your work, they love it. The oldest kids, ages almost 6 and 4, can help with a lot of things (cleaning the bathroom is a favorite). Not only are you teaching them how to work, but you are spending some good time together. Multi-tasking. It’s a beautiful thing.

Get a hobby that you can do on the side (I suggest blogging). Just don’t get lost in it. Bedtime stories are important. It’s okay if you have to skip them every once in awhile for the sake of your sanity. Be flexible. Be gentle, with yourself and with your kids.

The amazing and witty Erma Bombeck was once asked what kind of mother she was. “Who knows?” she wrote. “I showed up for it. I worked a lot of overtime.” This is an intense time of your life. Show up for it. Work a lot of overtime. Love it, love them. Get a nap in every once in a while. You’ll do just fine.

Yours truly,

Allysha in 2008

034_2006sep22.jpgAllysha recently moved across country from New York to Utah with her four children and her husband, Ben. She makes various kinds of oatmeal cookies and blogs at bellsontheirtoes.blogspot.com.