Two wise men in monk's robes once sat in the lotus position on a mountain top in the early morning mist. So deep was their concentration that if someone had been walking by on the nearby trail, they might have felt the rumblings from the profound thoughts tumbling around within their shaved heads.
"I have determined," one said after a time, "that a newborn babe should have the complete trust of his or her parents. The infant is completely innocent and has done nothing to betray such trust. Only later, when the inevitable temptations of life intercede, might the parents' trust adjust itself to a more realistic level."
The other wise man nodded sagely. "But isn't it also true that the newborn has yet done nothing to earn trust from the parents? Perhaps such faith should start at zero and grow throughout life as children show themselves to be trustworthy."
As they did every day, the two men began debating this issue. They were still at it hours later when a mother walked by in shorts, hiking boots and a backpack from Prada. (Hey, if she has to hike all the way to the top of a mountain for us, she might as well do it in style so she can enjoy the experience.) Her two children accompanied her, one of them a teen and the other a few years younger. She listened to the argument for a few minutes until she couldn't stand it any more.
"Hey," she called out.
The men stopped talking and looked at her in surprise. They had been so deep in conversation that they hadn't noticed the onlookers. That's when the mother told them the truth of the matter.
"You two," she said, "need to get out more."
You see, the mother cared little for such philosophical silliness. She knew that the trust between her and her children flowed in both directions and had a very real impact on their day-to-day lives. By knowing what her children were and were not likely to get up to, she could make sound decisions about what activities she could safely approve and how closely they needed to be supervised. Similarly, her children had learned that she would treat them with compassion, love and fairness. When conflict situations arose, they were likely to confide in her and resist jumping to negative conclusions about her intentions.
She explained this to the two wise men, after which they blinked and looked at each other in apparent confusion. After a few awkward moments, one said, "Let us discuss, my brother, why we are here."
His companion's face brightened at the prospect of being back on familiar ground and they began debating happily once more.
So how does trust work between you and your children? To me the interesting issues aren't so much about the level of trust that exists, but how you arrived there. When kids make the occasional poor life choice, how do you get back to a place where you have faith they won't make that particular mistake again? And what do you think is important for helping your children develop trust in you?
Oh, and for the record, I agree with the mother -- that encounter on the mountaintop was probably the only time those two (ahem) "wise" men have even met a child.
As always, I look forward to hearing your opinions.