When we get to a new hotel, the boys love to rush in and explore every single corner. They race through and open every cabinet, flop onto every piece of furniture, test every light switch. I mostly hang back, watching, making sure they’re not about to destroy anything. I know they’re just excited and that their little explorations help them feel comfortable in their new temporary digs.
Tonight, we’re staying in a new hotel and this ritual happened again. Asa, being the youngest, often explores on his own instead of trying to keep up with his big brothers. I’ve got to hand it to him, it’s a good strategy. At least this way he gets to be the first to discover or test out some things, instead of following in the wake of destruction of his brothers. Anyway tonight the twins ran one way and Asa ran the other, right into the bathroom. The bathroom isn’t much but Asa saw something he liked. He squealed and then, with all the grace of a stocky three-year-old (so, none), jumped and grabbed hold of the nice shiny towel rod on the wall, swinging like a little monkey.
I intervened of course – NO NO no no no! as I gently pried his fingers off of the bar – and explained to him that towel rods weren’t playground equipment, that they could fall, that he could hurt himself. He’s done this before (a lot), and I’ve explained this before (a lot). But he needs to be reminded, because his default mode is to trust the world. If I don’t remind him otherwise, he moves through new spaces with zero doubt in his mind that everything has been placed there solely for his use. Everything is meant for him to jump on or stand on or hang from. Everything will hold his weight. I’ve seen him treat new places like this – I’ve seen each of my boys do this – again and again. They see the world around them and assume it’s welcoming them to come and play.
Sometimes this means using curtains for Tarzan vines, or stacking pillows atop boxes atop chairs (etc.) to make mountains to climb, or constructing ramps and bridges out of sticks… Name the object, and I will be able to tell you how it has been used in amateur construction efforts by one of my sons. My boys’ default is to trust all objects to hold them, to catch them, to support them. They walk (or, run) in without a second thought.
It’s maddening. And, it’s beautiful.
It occurs to me that, even though I’m certain we will have to replace some towel rods at some point, and some curtains too, and even though pillows mountains tumble and stick bridges snap, I love that my sons believe in a world of strong things. Full of places to stand on and jump from. Places that can be trusted.
And while it may be a stretch, I believe that they see other people this way too: welcoming, trustworthy, good, strong, ready to play and interact.
Waiting for me to qualify all this? Fine. I do want my kids to know that the window treatments are not actually good things to swing from, of course. (Etc. etc. All the other caveats about breaking stuff. Please, boys, don’t break stuff.) More importantly, I do want them to be wise about who and how much they trust, of course – I want them to be cautious in the face of tricky people, resilient in the face of unfriendly people, and both gracious and strong in the face of bullies. I want them to be guarded when they need to be.
But overwhelmingly I think things would be better if we all erred on the side of trust more often than not. We – adults – are much too guarded, much too suspicious of one another on a day-to-day basis. But I think most of us want to be more like we were as kids in this way, and so for most of us, the opening up of our hearts is almost instantaneous when we are approached by someone soft, and trusting, and assuming the best. Someone who treats us as safe, good, strong enough to interact with – right off the bat. The world needs more people like that. People who jump right in, ready to play. People who see others as usually, mostly, pretty darn good.
My prayer tonight is that my sons continue to trust the world (minus a few towel rods) as much as possible, for as long as possible. I pray that they assume, and insist on finding, the goodness in people. And I pray that their interactions become reasons for others to believe this too.
author of #claywaterbrick. cofounder of @kiva. instructor at @USC. investor at @collabfund. in love w @rezaaslan + our three boys.