“Wyatt, say please.”
Over and over, Wyatt asked me to throw the football. Over and over, I thought it was a good opportunity to practice politeness so I asked him to say please before I would throw. Usually this works out pretty well, but for whatever reason, this afternoon he was so fixated on getting me to throw that he just kept repeating his request. Finally it was too much and he started screaming.
Of course practicing politeness is a good thing to do. But as I scooped him up, I realized that I had crossed the line from practicing a good thing, to trying to make him fit an exact mold I had carved out in my mind.
As I was holding him and comforting him and considering what lessons I could learn and how I could move forward, I was suddenly struck by how he was leaning his little head against my shoulder as he finished his last little gasps and tears and got quiet. I felt his steady breathing as he looked over my shoulder to see what was behind me. I felt the wind brush his hair against my face as he turned and looked at me. I marveled at his little voice saying ‘yes please’ when I asked if he wanted to get back down.
My little boy had forgiven me and he was just loving me like he always does. He wasn’t holding on to a hurt attitude, and it didn’t matter to him that the person holding him was the person who’d made him cry. Deserving wasn’t a part of his emotional vocabulary. He just loved me, and he showed it.
My little boy just loved me, and that was that.
Many lessons and wide-reaching conclusions about society and the world could be learned from this. And really, it’s worth considering what our communities would be like if we could all practice forgetting about ‘deserving’ and just loving even a little more. But the fact of my precious son’s natural, quiet and immediate love was so present, so real and unquenchable, that all I could think was how much I wanted to be like him. To stop holding on to past rationale or future hopes for why I loved or didn’t love. To just extend my trust and live love.
You may often hear about how we are leaving our world for our children, and therefore we need to make sure we are leaving a good world for them. Today, reflecting on this event, I realize that just as much as we need to leave a good world for our children, we need to realize that they are making the world a better place, right now. If we’ll just listen to their love, respect their innocence and simply stand in wonder at their open-hearted joy, we’ll have a glimpse of what the world could be. Hatred, greed, exclusion are not natural; they are learned. The love of our children is a light that can show us that life is most fully experienced, not in the pursuit of power, but in the conscious embrace of love. The power of unadulterated, unconditional, undeserved love is sufficient to move us forward and make our world the kind of place we want our children to grow up in.
I cherish Wyatt’s laugh, his cheer, his willingness to learn. But really, I just love him. And the fact that he loves me, inspires me to live that love. I will trust that this love will open the door to how I can more effectively love all those I meet and be a part of changing and healing the world. But even if my boy and my sweet wife are the only ones touched, it’s my privilege to treasure them and love with them, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.