Which Path Would You Choose?
Today my husband and I get ready for a good old fashioned hike in the woods.
Oh, did I mention along with our three little boys all under five? Yeah, I guess that changes things somewhat.
There’s a trail that we always hike to get to a small rustic cabin, where we explore, and then eventually keep walking along other trails that lead us around the rental property.
In my preplanned head I had it all laid out. Trail to cabin. Explore. Hike other trails. Back to house. Eat lunch. Rest time.
Seems a bit overkill in the plan department, I know. I suppose I should add that I struggle with anxiety in life. I’m pretty good at covering it up but sometimes it keeps me up at night. Sometimes prevents me from truly relaxing. Often forces me to have life planned out so I know what to expect. So like this trail, I was in control of my plans.
So when God gave me all boys I had to laugh. This was not part of the plan. I had no idea what to do with all boys. Their energy, their fearlessness, their passion for adventure, their muddy hands and bright curious eyes. Their wrestling and rough housing.
These amazing little creatures.
So back to our hike...
As we start along the uphill trail... daddy at front, followed by our three year old and then me, I turn back to our twins and see that one has stopped.
“Look! There are logs we can walk on!” Ryan exclaims, pointing to the fallen trees that we had to have taken down. It isn’t on a path. It is to the right of the trail we are on. Actually blocking what could have been a path.
”Let’s try and go across them!” He continues, never letting an idea go.
As I’m about to recite my million reasons why this doesn’t sound like a good idea... you could fall, you could break a leg, it’s not a path, let’s just all stay together, what if you slip?
I stop and shush my inner demons and take a deep breath.
“Looks like daddy and your brother are going on the regular trail but you can try it out and tell me what you think”
I remember the recent articles I read about letting kids take risks. And now a days there are so little opportunities for risk. And problem solving. So I go for it.
Ryan departs from the trail we started hiking and runs over to the fallen trees. All in one line. A long, continuous, lumber snake.
He starts to climb up a log. Realizes it is a little dangerous, and crouches down. He continues on the log using his hands and feet for stability.
His twin brother notices this idea and runs over to join in. James is a little more cautious so he approaches this whole situation much differently.
”Ryan, will you help me?” He asks, debating if this was truly a good idea.
Ryan guides him using his words over tree stumps, broken limbs, and slippery logs halfway through this new path.
Ryan spots an ant. He explains these ants bite and pauses.
At this time, James looks back and considers his options. He could continue up these logs, dodging this biting ant and risking falling. Or he could go back to the beginning and go up the trail that mom, dad, and toddler brother are on.
I watch them through the woods and know which option I would have chosen before having them. But would my choice be different now? Have these kids really changed my perspective that much?
”I’m going back” James announces, turning back on the log to head over to the safe, well traveled path.
“No, it’s okay James. The ant went back into the hole” Ryan explains.
And now the magic happens. James takes a deep breath and continues along the logs, following his brother as they meet the rest of us at the top of the hill.
I am so proud at this moment. I see these boys in every light possible. I see them get angry at each other. I see them fight and make each other cry. I see them get so annoyed with each other they scream “I need space!”
But then I see this happen. One brother helping his other brother. Leading him to safety. Showing him empathy and reassurance when he was scared. They work together to figure out how to get out of this obstacle of tree limbs, and broken twigs.
And hell... things could have easily gone the other way. Someone could fall, someone could have been bit by the ant, someone could have given up.
And maybe they will.
Maybe tomorrow. And of course there are situations that I won’t always let them try. And we did a more thorough check of ticks after the hike.
But today they did not give up. And today they showed me, but more importantly themselves, that they could get through any ant biting, tree stump tripping, unsteady log experience that life throws at them.
And I showed myself that I could let go. And not have everything planned. And let the magic of fallen trees take over.
Because sometimes a change of plans is really the best plan of all.