"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." ~Helen Keller
It was a perfect February day....nice enough to head out to a local nature park. It's a beautiful woodland area smack dab in the middle of the city. If you didn't know about it...you probably wouldn't even realize it was there. Right alongside a turnpike is a wooded area with paths and creeks where deer and hawks reside. It's an easy place to escape the busyness of the day.
I watch as my daughter and niece explore the area....peering over the bridge to count how many turtles they see. Of course, the mother in me can't help but say "watch out!...don't lean over too far....I don't want be fishing you out of the creek."
We walk along the path feeling the gravel crush under our sneakers. We stop to watch a couple Woodpeckers staking their claim on a Cottonwood tree. There is a treehouse built around it and the girls decide this is a good place to take out their sketchbooks.
As we make our way along the path we can hear the trickle of water and we know we are getting close to the creek. This is our favorite part of the nature park. I watch as the girls navigate their way across the exposed rocks to make it from one side to the other. I call out to them multiple times "watch your step...the rocks are slippery....don't get your shoes wet!" This is after all February...and while the temperatures are mild the breeze whips up every now and then just enough for your nose, ears and fingers to get cold. I think to myself that maybe I should have brought another layer, but then the breeze dies down again and that thought slips out of my mind. Why does it matter if their shoes get wet anyway? I shouldn't ruin a fun moment by hovering over their every move.
I take a step back and start to realize just how often I'm telling them not to do something. I'm sure it's just my maternal instinct wanting to protect them. But how are they going to learn to navigate this world by themselves if the don't learn to use their own critical thinking and good judgement. These are skills they need to hone now. I can't teach them to make decisions. Raising courageous children means they have to make their own mistakes and learn lessons from those mistakes. Perhaps next time they will scope out their path across the creek before they start jumping from rock to rock. I watch as they brainstorm and work together to figure out how to get across without landing in the water.
A simple walk in the park kind of day....a fun adventure for the girls....a defining moment in parenting for me. I need to lead less and follow more. I want to let them guide me on an adventure all their own. Letting them make their own decisions empower them, makes them feel important, teaches responsibility, and they learn more about themselves. And perhaps if I'm less concerned with telling them what to do, I will learn something from them.