Sometimes the most arresting questions seem to come “out of the” proverbial “blue.” And often, they come from a source you would not expect. This particular question came from my grandson; he is 5 1/2, going on 25.
My wife and I were taking him and his 2 year old sister to Dunkin Donuts; they were both safely buckled into seats in the back, and we were sitting up front making conversation with our grandson. [NOTE: our granddaughter was in one of her silent moods this particular morning, giving us one of her “I couldn’t care less” looks].
We were rehearsing with our grandson how we used to take him to Dunkin Donuts every Tuesday morning when he was little, and how much we enjoyed those times.
He said, “You really like being with me, don’t you?” [which put a smile on our faces, of course]. And we quickly said, “Oh yes, we always enjoy spending time with you!” Whereupon he asked the title question:
“Will you ALWAYS want to be with me?”
As parents and grandparents we often discuss the natural candor of children. In fact, when I was younger, Art Linkletter became famous for a TV show where he illustrated the oft repeated truth, i.e. “kids say the darndest things.” It was quite entertaining.
What we don’t always discuss is the profundity that a child’s honesty sometimes produces.
“Will you ALWAYS want to be with me?” is a question not just asked by a five year old; rather, it is a question that stirs deep down inside of every adult as well. I would call this inadvertent when asked by a child so young, but the truth is that unless conditioned otherwise, when a child asks a question, they mean exactly what they’ve said.
It is the question being asked by the elderly lady in the nursing home. And it is the question being asked by the old gentleman residing in the independent living facility. It is usually directed toward immediate family members, but it can also be directed to friends and more distant acquaintances.
We see it clearly in the elderly, don’t we? And we often discuss how sad it must be for them to have been so valuable to friends and family at one point in their lives, and now to face the fact that few really choose to be with them, and even fewer want to be with them. My wife has often pointed out to me that the old folks in those nursing homes, etc. were at one time vibrant contributors to their employers, vital citizens in their communities; people would come to them for advice and counsel.
They were sought after. But . . . no longer.
Yet inside of them resides the identity they held in the past, the sense of value they added to their workplace, or their home.
No doubt, as they ask the question, “Will you ALWAYS want to be with me,” they sense the clear and resounding response: “No.”
Yes. We see it in the elderly. But do we see it in the teenage girl, the young adult man, the middle-aged worker? Because the question is in their minds, too, I wager. It is the question we ALL are asking of those around us.
It is a concept that is venerated at weddings, where promises are made and vows said, all of which hover around and support this very idea: I will always want to be with you. But unhappiness and divorce often drive it into the ground. And our life experiences teach us that to maintain our much needed status with others we often have to do some psychological or emotional gymnastics.
It’s tiring. But we do it anyway. Because we know no other course. And we so dearly need the object of our efforts.
In our careers we often strive for it as well. We want to be needed. We need to be wanted. We need to be needed. And we want to be wanted. And without stating it so boldly . . . what we really want to know from our place of business is will you always want me here?
Even in the work arena we often find ourselves jockeying for position, seeking leverage, always guarding ourselves (as best we can) against the loss of the thing we most want: to be needed, to be wanted. Because to us, that means we are loved, valued.
It’s why young persons sometimes seek out alliances with unsavory organizations; it’s why people sometimes settle for unhealthy relationships; it’s why we stay at jobs long after we should have moved on.
One of the most powerful things you can say to another human being is this: “I will always want to be with you.”
And if you do, indeed, stay true to those words, and buttress them with behavior consistent with those words, you will foster growth and security that is boundless.
By the way, as the car carried us to Dunkin Donuts that day, my wife and I eagerly embraced the opportunity of a lifetime. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we said in unison:
“Yes indeed! We will ALWAYS want to be with you!”
Now all that remains is to live out the words. And if given the chance, to say them again.