Children really have only a few essential questions of caregivers. Will you grow with me? Will you help me become grown up? Will you live in the struggle of remaining present with me? Children need to be able to take the affirmative answers to these questions for granted. And only later in life find great gratitude in the questions being answered well, as they themselves develop empathy and understanding about life’s struggles.
Children do not demand perfection, even though they cry when imperfection is discovered. They do attempt to demand, however, the persistent presence of the caregiver. The presence they crave, importantly, is a presence of heart, not the presence of perfection. A child is born expressing heart. They want the caregiver to “keep heart” and help them do the same in a world that can pull us away from who we are created to be and become.
We are created to be and become human. We are not created to become gods, but humans in need of God. Not sufficient unto one’s self, but to have a sense of well-being through relational dependence.
When we are born, we cry out for care, reach out for connection, and take in sustenance of life with freedom of heart. These movements occur in the child without contempt for the absolute neediness they express. We are created or “pre-designed” to seek and find well-being this way. Our essential created nature is relational. Our early movements toward caregivers as infants is perhaps the original example of how we are created to connect, join, and attach relationally as emotional and spiritual creatures. Of course, we are created to do these things in grown up versions, but the factors remain the same as to how we are created. How we are created doesn’t change.
We are born powerless over this truth about us. For human beings, well-being comes from reaching for and being in relationship with ourselves, others, and God. The more we admit and accept these realities, the more we can answer our children’s questions, regardless how old our children are.