While I was waiting for the 6am flight out of Tulsa on Thanksgiving morning, I was pleasantly surprised at my fellow travelers demeanor’s – calm, mostly quiet, kind. And this was not because it was 440am. I continued to observe this throughout the day as I made my way home through three airports.
While quietly standing against the wall at the terminal waiting to board for the first leg of my travel, I was struck by the sight of a woman and her two year old daughter walking toward the gate. I have traveled that early with a two year old – not fun. As they walked past me I saw that the monkey backpack the little girl was wearing had a “tail” that mom was holding on to. You know what I mean by “tail”, right? (I’m not judging the use of a leash with a two year old, especially in an airport…)
As I stood there and watched the little girl look around at everyone, turn and talk to her mom, walk as many steps from mom as she could and then scream out to the audience, I noticed that her little arms were just hanging at her side. I almost burst into tears.
I felt my heart breaking that (in this particular moment) this child had no one actively creating a space of comfort and reassurance. No one touching her. She was depending on no one – she was waiting for the tug of a piece of fabric.
When we’re babies learning to walk, our parent stands behind us, bent over at the waist with their arms reaching down to us, holding out their index fingers for us to reach above our heads and clutch onto them as we learn to balance and become steady on our feet, eventually learning to walk on our own.
As toddlers we hold hands with adults to be lead to places and experiences. The potty, bedtime, crossing the street, walking into the grocery store. We hold an arm above our head and grasp a hand and we just know that that hand is taking us where we need to go.
As young children we still reach up for the hand to guide us and only let go of it when we’re completely sure everything is under control.
We raise our arms and reach for guidance all through our lives.
To be lead, to be helped, to be comforted. To offer praise, express exasperation and frustration, to show anger, to ask questions. We hold hands to show love, offer discipline, to show trust.
What happens if we aren’t raising our hands? Or aren’t offering our hands?
When I looked at the little girl in the airport, I prayed that this “independence” was an isolated (or at least rare) event for her.
No one should have their regular interaction with the world with their arms hanging down by their sides. We should all be reaching down and over and up all of the time. This is how we learn expectations and boundaries and practice trust. This is how we get and give life.