Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tough Love

Six years.

It only took six years for our tree to grow.

And it all began with: one stick, lots of sun, even more water, and lots of love (well, as much love as you can give a stick). For six years we’ve watched our sweet little apple tree blossom and grow. And blossom and grow. And grow. And grow. And lean. And um….lean further, each hurricane passing through beating a little harder against our poor struggling stick. One that refused to be righted, but still hung on. And 5 1/2 years later it was still a stick; but with a bunch of other ones attached and holding a token amount of leaves. But…

No apples.

Frustrating, you ask? Um….very. So much so that we had finally given it up for lost and decided to start over. That is, we tried. First we stood alongside the poor decrepit tree and asked, “Why? Why hadn’t it grown. Hadn’t we done our part? Taken care of it? Nurtured it the best we could? Even given it some friends to hang out with and encourage it’s growth?” But alas, it had refused to give fruit. Disappointed and more than a little upset we still could not bring ourselves to cut it down. So we took the last course known to experienced parents.

We threatened it.

Yes, that’s right. We stood in the yard and gave the tree an ultimatum. If it couldn’t get its act together by the next spring it would have to go. Making way for a tree that would serve its intended purpose. I mean, this tree was struggling so badly it couldn’t even give us some decent shade.

That’s when we witnessed a miracle. While we were grieving the loss of a beloved family member our tree grew. And grew. And grew. We watched the blossoms arrive…then explode…followed quickly by fruit. We would run outside each new day and marvel that amidst the struggle of death, we were witnessing life!

Was it actually happening? Yes. Our beautiful stick had finally decided to become a tree. An honest to goodness, bushel full of apples producing tree. They’re as big as our fists now and are almost ready to harvest. Not to mention the beautiful branches that are so gorgeous that they served as the background for my daughter’s photo shoot.

As I marveled at the transformation I was reminded of the importance of talking to plants. Talking though, not yelling. But then I realized that the same thing applied to parenting, and that sometimes a little time and the occasional tough love is just what the doctor would order. And he has, in our home, many times. And the results have been remarkably the same. Watching our children blossom and grow into their full potential as we patiently nurture, instruct, and on occasion call them to repentance. Reminding them of their divine potential and how they’re not living up to it.

There are even times when I have seen a parent make the hardest choice of all and set their children free. But without that push, they would never find the courage to stretch themselves and discover what they’re truly capable of.

So the tree lives. And we have apples. And in relation to parenting, we’ve been thus blessed with the knowledge that with a little patience and prodding, there’s always hope. But hope that may need a little tough love to help it along.
Our beautiful…leaning…tree.


  • Shelli says:
    I have a beautiful, huge butterfly bush that likewise toppled over. I probably should have gotten rid of it already, but I can’t give up the butterflies and hummingbirds that love it no matter what. So I keep telling the landscapers to cut a little here, a little there, trying to get it to at least look kinda normal. I should let go of my perfectionism and just let it be.
    Great analogy to parenting, especially for parents of teens. Boy, that’s tough! I’ll let you know in a few years if mine end up producing fruit.
  • I think more importantly though, as parents we need to allow kids to make mistakes along the way, even if they’re big ones. Often times we try to fix the mistake before it happens but how does that teach the child how to work through a problem they’ve created? When we allow them to make those mistakes when the time comes to set them “free,” they will be better equiped to deal with the real world and the mistakes that come with being human.
  • Barbara Butler says:
    July 17, 2010 at 6:14 am
    The tree is beautiful, the story is right on, grow apples, grow! I love fruit trees, and you are correct, this is a lesson learned on tough love. Not having any children, I feel I should not give you any advice. However, I adopt every kid around that will give me a smile and a hug, and if it came to that, tough love would be what I would use. Not being related to the children in my ward, I still become a little tough with them if it proves necessary. And you know what? These same kids seem to really like me.
    From a childless grandma.
    barbara b
    Karen says: You’re so right Barbara. All of us have the potential to make a difference in the lives of others. It just takes a little bit of time and love. Thanks for sharing!

  • Susan G. Haws says:
    Nice analogy. On the straight plant talk it makes you wonder if I should be more firm instead of pleading to make my plants thrive.
  • Jolene says:
    Love your leaning tree. Gotta have something with character.

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