When my daughter was five, we were at Universal Studios about to enter a new ride centered around the movie E.T. The Extra- Terrestrial, by Steven Spielberg. Even though it had been released long before she was born she loved it -as evidenced by the well worn copy we had at home. The park ranked it as appropriate for all ages but she was skeptical.
I’ll never forget her usual stance when showing concern: hands on her hips, body turned ever so slightly away from me while her head was straight on. Her eyes zeroed in on mine and asked, “Are you suuuuurrrreee that it won’t scare me, Mommy?”
Having no real choice but to trust the park, realizing the day was over in terms of rides if I couldn’t trust their labeling, I assured her, “Of course, sweetheart, it’s about E.T. how could it possibly scare you? You love E.T.”
That’s when she said those three little words.
“Ok, Mommy, I Trust You.”
With that declaration, I knew I’d better be right, my baby was depending on me.
We waited patiently in line to finally board our own “bike” for the ride ahead. Most of it was scenic and benign until we hit one section where our bike took flight just as the kids do in the movie when trying to save ET.
Perhaps I should have anticipated it, we were after all on bikes that only existed for that scene- even so, I never imagined it’d scare her. But to a 5-year old suddenly losing the ground beneath her, no matter how much her mother held tight, was jarring and frightening.
After, she stared up at me with watery eyes and said the hardest words I’d ever have to hear,
“Mommy, I don’t trust you any more.”
No amount of cajoling or comfort could alter her opinion- Mommy had let her down. And in the worst way, after I’d said words I’d always made clear were absolute.
You. Can. Trust. Me.
Thankfully, it didn’t last long. We enjoyed other aspects of the park until her fears abated and trust was somewhat restored. It took awhile, she was hyper concerned about anything I said, questioning and worrying if it were true. By the afternoon, other rides displaying exciting adventures finally overrode the fear she’d felt but an underlying skepticism remained.
As did a harsh truth.
It only takes a second to lose trust, and an eternity to gain it back.
A simple truth that impacts any age and any relationship.
My father always lived by one absolute, “You are only as good as your words. If they can’t be trusted then nothing can be trusted.”
Perhaps it’s a lesson we all have to learn at some point. Seeing the hurt in others eyes, knowing the pain we caused. Hopefully once done it’s never repeated. Trust should be earned, not given away. How can we truly appreciate someone’s intent if it’s not witnessed over time through consistent effort? And once established it still needs to be nurtured and maintained. That’s when you really know that what someone says will be followed through with actions.
Those times I’ve fallen short I remember the looks of pain and disappointment. Looks that speared my heart and left indelible consequences. Whether it was over a silly ride or more serious matters was never the issue, only the fact I let someone down. I knew I’d do whatever it took to regain and keep it forever.
That’s what makes us human.
Losing someone’s trust is horrible, but losing a child’s trust is doubly so. You’re all they have. When my little girl put her hands on my face, looked me in the eye and finally said, “Mommy, I forgive you.”
I knew all was right with the world.