Forty one years ago when I was an oblivious 19-year-old I traveled off on an adventure with a stranger named Gar in a U-haul van from San Diego to the backwoods little town of Brandywine, West Virginia. For all that this adventure contained it is only what happened at the end of it that I relate to this post. At the very end we had to find the U-haul lot in Washington, D.C. to return the van so we could catch our flight back to San Diego.
No helpful GPS assistance back then! We had a map and we were lost. Repeatedly we stopped for directions from strangers who were all seemingly very helpful. Yet for every set of instructions we were given, as we followed them exactly with every turn, we ended up more lost than we were when we started.
Did all these seemingly helpless strangers misguide us intentionally? I will never know, but this experience comes to mind today in combination with something I wish to say about my grandson. I will call him Pete.
My daughter and her husband live 1700 miles away from me, so the closest gift of watching Pete grow and change (he is 18 months old now) comes from the wonderful little videos my daughter sends me. I have one of them open in a window that pops up and starts the video every time I open my internet browser so I can hear and watch that tiny segment of my grandson’s life as many times as I want to.
The video takes place as Pete sits at the side of a parking lot in a country park my daughter and family visited recently in Canada. Pete’s mom is filming him gently gathering and scattering little handfuls of tiny pebbles under his mommy’s watchful guidance.
After a few tosses of the little stones Pete takes a few in his hand and lifts them to his ear to listen to them. My daughter says he does this a lot as he learns about himself in the world around him. Pete has noticed the high pitched skittering clicking sound the pebbles make as he scatters them. He is studying both the actions of himself and the pebbles — AND the sound they are making.
Only Pete knows what he heard in the pebbles held to his ear, but as he moves on to dropping those pebbles he is singing softly to himself notes and tones that are in harmony with the sound the pebbles are making.
Knowing what I know about the bigger picture of this little boy’s life I know that this tiny segment of his history belongs in a long, unbroken continuous line of being loved. Pete has never been distressed by those who care for him since the time of his birth. There is no adult trauma drama in his life that would deplete him, would rob him of his opportunities to explore himself in a safe and secure world.
Nobody is sending his physiological development off on a wild goose chase of survival. Nobody is sidetracking his normal process of moving through his most critical earliest stages of development HIS way. Nobody is leaving him unguided. He is not being super-challenged by experiences of traumatic stress that do not belong to him and that would overwhelm him as he is traveling through these most important developmental stages.
His life is the complete opposite of what mine was. As I watch Pete discovering himself in interaction with musical pebbles, as I listen to him sing along, I know that the lack of impediments thrown into his life is going to let him become strong and clear and real and FOUND in his journey through life.
He will NOT BE LOST. He will not be left with big empty holes inside of him like a chunk of Swiss cheese that he would then be left trying to fill up with meaningless and harmful addictions and pursuits over the course of his lifespan. I also know that Pete will never be left unloved and unguided and unprotected.
Nothing could make me happier.