When the Bough Breaks: Forcing


Today is Hallmark cards’ biggest day ever. It’s mother’s day. 

I am glad to be a mother. I do not think, however, that my being a mother makes me better than other women who are not either by choice, circumstance or biology (or quite honestly, at times I believe: sheer brilliance). Happy women day. 

Let’s move on. You’re welcome. 

Well, no, back up but just for a second or two. OK, a minute. My husband Dan and I have three boys: Thing 1 (14), Thing 2 (11), and Thing 3 (8). The timing is exquisite for their birth spacing, wouldn’t you say? Well, it’s all about pharmaceuticals. For me, being a mother is about knowing my limitations and having three kids under 5 in four years would have landed me in the looney bin. Being a mom is exhaustingly enriching. It’s all the stuff you would imagine and more. 

I was lamenting Friday to my husband that I don’t have a paying job: when you have one of those, you have performance reviews and feedback and assessments and teamwork. When you’re a mother, a sign of success (or luck) is going months without a call from school, or the fact that your kids don’t really beat the crap out of each other and that screaming is occasional rather than a symptom of existence. 

It’s the little surprises however that make it even more exciting than say, sitting on your own with a ball of yarn and knitting it. Or maybe, it’s the coming out of the shower to a screaming child holding his head and scrying (omigawd, that’s a word — “scrying” is a word, I was just blending “screaming” and “crying” — it means foretell the future using a crystal ball or other reflective object or surface. – who knew? gypsies, that’s who… I digress, completely), “hedidthistomehehit meintheFACE witha witha witha aa BLAD OOIH BFS and then he AATAWAGATROW. . . . mama mama mama mmmm maaaa aaaaMMomm mmyyyy. Fix it…Kiss the boo-boo…” 

Get back to the title. Back to the title. “When the Bough Breaks” – “bough” is a branch, a main branch of a tree.

Ok. So, we have a weeping cherry tree. I am like the Lorax, I do speak for the trees. I’m not a tree-hugger, I don’t camp out in them, but I completely admire those who do. I appreciate their love and respect for our planet. I don’t let burly men in spike boots climb my majestic oak tree to take off a few limbs here and there. We throw the big money at the Big Tree because she deserves it. She’s probably as old as my own mom, who’s 78.

  This weeping cherry is lovely. In the spring, oh, it blooms just beautifully.  

Thing 2 is a human spider monkey. He loves to climb and run and leap and pretend he is any number of Marvel Comics-inspired superheroes. I love that about him. 

This is Thing 2; he is a font of funny, the master of mirth. Note that he’s sitting under the umbrella and the sprinkler is spraying into it. That’s how he is. Just a nut.

He has tried to climb this cherry tree a number of times. This morning, he and I estimated that at least 60 times out of my view and maybe a dozen within my view that I would consistently say, “GET OFF THAT TREE. It is a tree, not a playset. The playset is in the yard. Swing off that. Do not climb that branch, ANYmore. Get Out Of The Tree.” 

“Yes, mom.” 

I told him many times that the tree is innocent. That when we force things to become something they’re not, something gives, something suffers, something breaks, something dies. 

You don’t need a scrying session (nice, see how I worked that in? I’m not a gypsy, yet) to figure out where this is going. 

Last night, after I did some quiet yoga and centering in my room to prepare for guests (who are lovely, but I’m just not in the guest mood right now) Thing 2 invited over (and he is SO lucky he did invite them over), I went downstairs, all in my Zen state to see the sitting Thing 2 waiting for me at the bottom of the steps looking out our storm door. As a team, we had enjoyed a beautiful day, the sky was cloudless and perfectly blue. Temps in the upper 70s no humidity, we had gone to soccer games and I lost my voice cheering for my boys. 

He looked so wee; he’s fairly compact to begin with, so when he is low, it’s obvious. He was sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the bare wood floor, his chin in his right hand whose elbow was resting on the fold of his right knee. Quiet. Just sort of being and feeling. 

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hey bud, what’s up? Why are you sitting all little like that? Whatsa matta?”

“I have something to tell you.” 

>shit!quick, do a millisecond instinctual mental inventory, scan outside for ambulances or police cruisers. are there any tools on the floor? any broken glass? listen for crying. where’s the dog?

“Oh, ok. I can tell it’s probably not good news. What happened?”

“Um. You know how you . . .  >sigh< . . . I didn’t mean to. OK, everyone is fine. But I um . . . I broke the tree.” 

“What? Come again?” 

“I uh . . .  I Broke the Tree. I broke a branch off the tree. The tree near the cars. The . . . your . . . our, >sigh< Our Cherry Tree. I did that.”

“Oh. You broke The Branch that I told you to stop climbing? >suppress anger this is not about me< The One, The Branch that I said all of those times when you were on to get off of? That Branch?” 

“yeah. I’m sorry. I am really sorry.”     

>bristle; what have I tried to teach about constant apologies< Thank you for apologizing. What have I been saying to you About Apologies for the past month?”

“Stop apologizing. Change my behavior. I get it now.” 

>Oh! Well, good.<  Show me. Show me >suppress returning feelings of invisibility and primitive feelings of being unheard and unimportant<  what You grabitzfragin frackdigrabin  Did, show me The Branch.” 

“Ok. >sniffle<“

So we go out the front door and walk the 30′ to the driveway, slowly and I’m keeping it together, man. This tree is the first thing we planted when we moved to this home in almost 12 years ago. It is our Symbolic Tree. I get it. It’s only a tree. And to a kid, it is eminently alluring as a climbing tree. It’s just that anything over 50 pounds is too much. Thing 2 weighs about 75 and it’s mostly incredibly flexible and active muscle. When he was born, a dear friend called him, “Fling” as a nickname. 

I don’t have a picture of the damage. I just went to check if it were still there, the carnage. But it’s not. And that’s a good thing; living in the past, or constantly re-examining things that hurt us doesn’t help us. It only wells up those feelings again and well, who needs that shit? Move on. 

Part of our discipline strategy for this situation has been for Thing 2 to make reparations and clean up his mess. So he sawed off the 12″ jagged branch remains this morning with his dad. The Branch and its abrupt ending will all be a memory after the Waste Management company comes by next week at its appointed time to remove our “yard clippings.”  Now the tree boasts a clean cut, almost as if a storm took down the branch, and she’s ready to sap herself.    

This morning, when I was woken out of a great dream by three young minstrels and their fantastic dad for my annual “You’re The Best Mom” ritual, I had a chat with Thing 2 about the tree. 

Life has this completely WONDERFUL way of showing us how to make lemonade out of lemons. We just have to be willing to do some squeezing because the juice is what makes it tasty; sugar can sweeten tobacco, but that doesn’t mean I want to drink it.  And lemons are good for our liver!

As we spoke about the tree, it dawned on me that it presented a great parable about forcing and breaking rules, what happens to the innocent when we do, and how our seemingly small or self-important choices (good or bad) can affect the world, or in this case, an ecosystem. 

1) Thing 2 forced that tree to be something it’s not: he forced it to be a playground. A perch for his “Wolverine” character development. It’s not supposed to be his Wolverine perch, it’s a tree. Forcing it to be something else broke it. Forcing anything will break it. This is a law of physics. 

2) Breaking the rules a few times and getting away with it will falsely empower us to think it’s OK to continue to break the rules; it emboldens us. That because it we get away with it once, say drinking and driving, then we think we can do it again. We can’t because . . . 

3) Innocent people or objects get broken in the process. Our vanity, our drive to be something more, different than others, better or something other than What We Are hurts innocents. I’m all about play and imagination and Wolverine, as long as we play by the rules and don’t break them. Because when we break them, we break a part of us too. 

4) The ecosystem has been changed because of his actions. The bird family who used that tree to live in, now have less cover from predators. Our pleasure at witnessing about 500-1,000 of its blossoms on That Branch every spring has been altered. The CO2 provided by that 20′ branch has been eliminated. I’m not dwelling on it, I’m just mentioning it.

The things we do, the forcing, affect everyone. 

It was a good talk. He seemed to really get it and he wept for a moment, heaving big to him, wee to me, 75# sighs and flubbers of remorse and squeaky words expressing regret. 

It was a good talk for me too. It helped me to be a better mother. Because we had company last night, I had to dial back my reaction and my sadness over the incident. I realized that my ego was playing a bigger part than it (ever) should. Instead of feeling bad about the tree, I felt selfish about my son not listening to me, about his flagrant disobedience. This is not about me, this is not about him. This is about us. We are a team.

Looking back with 18-hour vision I appreciate it. Honestly, if this is the worst thing he does, we are very fortunate.

I have the bestest dude: he just returned from an errand with a bouquet of tulips and a no-whip green tea frappucino. My Drink of Glee.

Thank you.    

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About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

6 responses »

  1. Incompetent Hausfrau! Thank you! I appreciate your stopping by. 🙂 i left you some lasagna (in appreciation for sharing) at your wall. just heat it up in the microwave on low for 2 minutes; it'll be great. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It was one of those that wrote itself. 🙂

  2. Great post as always! Cool that it wrote itself. My blog of today did the same. Love when that happens. But back to yours…don't ya just love kids and motherhood and all that comes with it? All the lessons, the restraint, the acceptance, the love! Happy Mother's Day!Carrie

  3. Hey Carrie! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment! I've been out all day and I think I owe you some lasagna also for when you shared my post the other day about equanimity. (I just found some lasagna and started leaving it for nice people. I'll get on that.) Motherhood is all you have said it is. All the lessons, it's nuts. I said the other day that our parents shape us into who *they* want us to be, but our children help us be who we *can* be. It's a tremendous opportunity for redemption and growth. I love my kids so much. I just spent the day with my own mom (the relationship is strained, she's quite dramatic and has had other related issues) and so it was nice to be with her while also flanked by the team I made. After that, we were joined by my brother and his wife and two youngsters: 3yo girl and 8mo son and … oh… they are so cute. I love the baby smell and the chortles and the coos and the big big grins and huge eyes. Oh! What a great day. And then I come home to see that I've made 5,000 hits on this blog wall (yay!) after having a few hard weeks. Life is good; it reminds me to not give up, which was something I was considering. So I'm glad I hung in there.Happy Mother's Day to you too!:) You are inspiring, Carrie, and I'm grateful you have found me. 🙂 ❤ -Molly

  4. um. you just gave me chills. i don't know how to say this other than to say it: i was very very low about 3 weeks ago, doubting everything i'd written. i was lost, to say the least. i'm writing this off the cuff so you can have it as the words spill out. i am overwhelmed by your kindness. you have touched me (in a completely benevolent and non-sexual way -ha!) and your support has lifted me. i finally disclosed (last week on my post to my sons the things i'd want them to know if i were dying) a phrase i heard repeat itself again and again in my head. i didn't want to share it because it had a "timing" aspect to it. (i still don't know if "it is time.") but i did know that at its heart, to not give up and to know that even though life is tough sometimes, those challenges are there to inspire us to keep on going. genetically, i can't help what i do – i hail from a long line of writers, and some birds just gotta sing, baby. i know that i'm doing what i'm supposed to be doing. it doesn't matter to me if i don't win all hearts or a billion fans; what matters to me is that i try. being a parent means you have to lead by example for your children to do Their Right Thing, even if that makes us uncomfortable. i'm blathering, but i am grateful. very much, for your recognition. xoxo and endless lasagna to you, molly

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