Apple Tree analogy,
and the nature of wholeness

Karen James wrote:

"An apple seed will never grown into an oak tree." Sandra Dodd said this yesterday in one of her talks at the Always Learning symposium in Maine.

It's a line that stood out for me because my son suggested something similar to me one night several years ago when he and I were reading stories and chatting in bed. I think Ethan was five. At the time he was very interested in rocks and minerals and the table of elements. I was telling him that he could be a geologist or a chemist when he grew up. He listened. He'd heard this kind of grand predictive thinking from me before. I was fond of telling him who he could be when he grew up, based on the interests he had at the time. After a pause, he said to me "But what if I don't want to be anything big?"

After I gave myself some time to let what Ethan said to me sink in, I realized what I was doing. I was not looking at and encouraging who Ethan was in the moment. Rather, I was looking off into the unknown future trying to fit Ethan to a model I was forming in my head. My predictions were making him feel uncomfortable and unsure. He was asking me to be with him in the present, to share his excitement for his interests now, and to leave the future to the future because it might not be where he was meant to go.

An apple seed will never grow into an oak tree. An acorn will never grow into a tree that bears fruit. Knowing that, the best thing we can do as parents is to do our very best to nurture the seed we have at every stage of growth it sees. Like Sandra said, we can stunt its growth, break it, or damage it beyond repair by trying to make it into something it's not or failing to protect what it is at all the stages along the path of its growth. Or we can choose to encourage and safeguard the beautiful seed we have been given from seed to seedling to full grown tree, offering it everything it needs to grow into the best version of itself it can be.

—Karen James
September 27, 2014

It seems I've used this analogy in person and in interviews more than in writing, so I'm glad that Karen picked it up and expanded on it.

Here's something more, while you're thinking about your child being as strong and as natural as a tree:

Each tree grows from a single seed, and when a tree is growing in your yard what is the best thing you can do for it? You can nurture it and protect it, but measuring it doesn’t make it grow faster. Pulling it up to see how the roots are doing has never helped a tree a bit. What helps is keeping animals from eating it or scratching its bark, making sure it has water, good soil, shade when it needs it and sun when it needs it, and letting its own growth unfold peacefully. It takes years, and you can’t rush it.

So it is with children. They need to be protected from physical and emotional harm. They need to have positive regard, food, shade and sun, things to see, hear, smell, taste and touch. They need someone to answer their questions and show them the world, which is as new to them as it was to us. Their growth can’t be rushed, but it can be enriched.

—Sandra Dodd

(Click photo for more:)


Multiple Intelligences

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