Uphill Parenting


It’s the first day of my favorite month! We’re home from our vacation! Weekly posts are going to resume! And…I’m going to kick it off a day early! {I generally post on Mondays} Away we go!

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Muscles aching and camera brimming with once-in-a-lifetime shots, we returned to my inlaws to boast about our first true mountain hike as family. What a fantastic experience! Although we currently reside in the prairies of Alberta, Jeremy and I love returning to the west-lands of his childhood and the territory of our greatest adventures as a couple. One such area holds a trail which we have climbed for years; both as a couple and with babes growing in my belly. This year, we decided it was time for the boys to test their legs and make the trek themselves.

Most family outings provide opportunities to engage personalities, discipline, humor, and memories, but few provide such a compatible platform for reflection on the journey of parenting and on the Path to Life. For me, the physical excursion was almost secondary to rich spiritual education of the day.

What I learned about parenting and The Path while adventuring with my sons:

1.       Choosing one’s path requires freedom and practice.

As we set out, Jeremy and I stepped back and invited the boys to take turns as ‘trail boss’. Jeremiah was thrilled! As we came to points where the path was unclear, he faltered. “The choice is yours, son! Which way do you want to go?” A pause. A step and re-step. And then onward. For the most part, Jeremiah chose a route which was contrary to my own style and preference (ie. over the largest boulder, the steepest grade, the non-bridge) but as his back-up, I kept a half-step behind him and praised his choice and efforts. Knightley, on the other hand, was often heard advising us to, “Be carefoll!” while keeping one hand in his Papa’s sure grasp.
They beamed with each section completed, while we as parents had the unique opportunity of glimpsing their unique giftings and expressions of personality. Further, I noted that even when they chose separate paths which seemed to branch away from each other, we eventually arrived at the same open space.

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2. There are risks which can lead to pain. There are risks which can lead to Death.

As modern parents, we have become fearful of pain. While few parents wish harm upon their children, most young people benefit from discovering their own physical and inner strength as well as the fact that they can indeed be victorious in the face of difficult circumstances.
With this in mind, we allowed our boys to push some limits. They ventured across the water on series of {stable} logs. They slid down a portion of a path on their tushies. They waded into the glacial lake. They fell. They bruised. They stood. With each point of risk, we were aware that they just might end up in the dirt but we also were aware that they were feeling the thrill and limits of strength, freedom, and support, and that a tumble is a normal part of The Path. {Granted, it took a lot of lip biting and foot stomping to keep myself from yelping and scooping them up at every turn!}.
With that in mind, we were also aware of true danger. When Jeremiah stepped too near the edge of a sheer grade, Jeremy intervened. First, the bark of “Son!” that only he can give, and then with fast hands setting Jerah two paces back to a safe place.
Breathe and provide a sure foundation when your kids experience pain. Children can do hard things.
And…be willing to give your own life to keep them from death…and Death.

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3. They may be lost but they are not alone.

At a particularly confusing point in our hike, Jeremiah was thoroughly stumped. “Which way?!” he howled.
“You choose!” I encouraged.
“But where?!” he replied.
“Up!”
He put feet into step and moved upwards. Two seconds later as I commended his effort I noted, “Jerah, look there.” As obscure as the trail was, it came with markers. They weren’t obvious and one actually had to look for them, but they existed. As they boys continued their ascent they knew: their parents were behind, our goal was “up”, and had help from those before us.

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4. We go before them, we go after them, as parents we are in motion.

Hiking up a mountain with two adults and three wild boys under the age of five is a decent workout 😉 I was carrying Baby on my back, and Jeremy and I kept within reach of one of the other two. But our excursion didn’t have the look of those tired trail riding lines where each horse stoically follows the next. We were up. We were down. We were branching away. We jumped ahead to pull them up then jumped back to catch a fall. It was in no way frantic or exhausting, but it did require that we be in motion. We were not there together to smooch and enjoy the scenery. We were there together because we were a family and we were going somewhere, together.
Together, when parenting, is much less “tapestry on the wall” as it is “threads been woven”. It’s the up-and-down’ness and in-and-out’ness that gives strength and beauty.

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5.       Celebrate the summit

We made it! In the midst of the chattering and exploring and rocks and moss, we did indeed reach our destination.
It was gorgeous!

We stopped. We ate a picnic. We stripped down and dipped into emerald mountain waters.
It’s likely that these boys will complete many mountain trails in their lifetime. At some point, this one will seem easy to them. But within that day; with knowledge of their season and progress; it was something to be commended.

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6.       Don’t neglect the descent

Hours had passed hiking and picnicking and it was time to head back. Jeremiah seemed baffled. “Where are we going?!” (yes, he asks everything with both a question mark AND an exclamation mark). “Back to the van,” we replied.
For the first time, my children had a slight picture that life didn’t exist solely of mountain tops and that there is a physical rhythm to The path. For that moment, it meant back tracking and working through tough trail points with less energy and no allure of a mysterious destination. For other days, it would mean, “This was fun, and now we clean up. This was exciting, and now it’s time for bed.” It is between the mountains that we find our green pastures.

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7 There are times to be carried.

At a couple months shy of three, this was Knightley’s first real excursion. As he puffed and breathed and reached, we were so proud. And then…he was done. Sitting in the midst of boulders, with tears streaking dust, he expressed his need for help. I watched as Jeremy listened, encouraged, challenged…and then scooped up his son and carried him close for the duration of the descent. A thorough and honest effort had given way to a thorough and honest need for strength beyond his own, and his Papa was so very blessed to be the one present.
There are times to be carried. Our children are not a burden. They are a gift and we are called to carry them with joy.

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I felt so fortunate to be present with my family that day on the mountain. Participating in their struggles and triumphs and creating memories as a family was such a gift. I carry these mountain memories with me now as we enter autumn. The thrill of new beginnings will soon be frosted with early nights and the lull of the mundane. I pray I will remember that we are always journeying; mountain top or vale; that each step is an opportunity and that we are exceptionally blessed to be present with our children.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Uphill Parenting”
  1. kitgonzales says:

    I love this! What an experience! 🙂

  2. Kmarie says:

    Great experience! And such beauty! Funny, I wrote a bit about parenting today too before I read here!:)
    Enjoy the autumn coming:)

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