A Home of Your Own

Do one-year-olds know what home is? Where and when do they learn and sense when they are at home, in their own rooms, with their own parents?

He looked at his house and the yard and he knew he was home. Truly home.

I pondered these things as my grandsons turned one last fall and as I enjoyed visiting them or having them come see or stay with us.

We know that by age one, children are certainly attached to their parents, and indeed may show the beginning stages of separation anxiety.

Because my husband had to work I went by myself to visit my daughter and her husband in a nearby state. I wanted to “babysit”—and help out my daughter whose work schedule means frequent evening engagements. Her husband has to work a night shift.

So we had arranged that when I arrived, I would go pick Sam up from his daycare facility. I had been there before, and had been through their routine: ID identification required, use a code to get in—the whole nine yards.

Sam is in transition to one nap a day, which means he gets very sleepy towards noon, sometimes even falling asleep as he eats (I well remember those days!). My daughter let me know that if he was asleep, I should just pick him up and take him home anyway.

On her lunch hour she checked the daycare room by webcam. She called me as I was traveling and let me know that Sam had just fallen asleep. So when I got there, I indeed picked him up and settled him in the car seat, he looked very startled and unsure what was going on. (I can’t blame him!) My daughter said I should take him home, play with him a while, feed him some lunch, and then try to resume his nap later, after we ’d gotten settled.

After I had him in the car, he began to fuss a little as I drove to their home not far away. He whimpered and fussed, not sure whether to cry or go back to sleep.

Then I got to their house and took him out of his car seat. I lifted him up where he could see around, and suddenly he smiled. He looked at his house and the yard and he knew he was home. Truly home.

Much the same thing happened for his cousin, James, when he and his parents visited our house over Thanksgiving. They had shuffled back and forth between our house and his grandmother’s house, about 15 miles away, for five days. Lots of car seat time. One-year-olds never like car seats (unless they are sleeping). When James and his parents arrived back at their own home about two hours away, at first James was just elated to be set free from his car seat.

Then he saw his house. My daughter Michelle said he got all excited again, knowing he was home home—not at grandma’ s and not at the other grandma’s, not at a mall or Wal-Mart, but home. It showed on his face.

Author and speaker Jim Wallis tells a story of when his children were ages three and seven. He and his wife had just come back from speaking at a youth conference. The three-year-old kept asking, “Are we going back to our red house?”

Wallis said he told his son “Yes!” When they got there his son said, “Great, we’ re home, back in our red house!” That conveys a little of the specialness that kids can attach to their homes. “To have a house that these two boys know is their house, their place to live, is very important to them,” concluded Wallis. Wallis is well known for his work on issues of justice and poverty.

In many parts of our country it is cold, cold winter time. Nothing looks cheerier than bright lights shining from homey windows on dark nights, even though we’re all aware that not everything that goes on within those homes is happy. But even sadder are those without any real home to call their own, not even a broken-down mobile home or small apartment. Children who grow up with home insecurity—couch-surfing among homes of relatives or friends, or maybe spending a night or two at a shelter—miss out on that basic security. Even birds and squirrels and deer seek protection and a place to land. Join me in praying and perhaps even working to help provide for this basic need—and for affordable housing in safe communities.

My grandsons certainly reminded me—with their joyous smiles—that even one-year-olds know and need a sense of home.