First off, let me say that Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen. And who knew this was in Texas? Not me. I’ve lived in Texas for 8 years and am constantly amazed at the diversity and vastness of the Texas landscape. Definitely for Texans, but for everyone, this state park is a must visit.
In the midst of beauty however, I learned some important lessons as a father over these last two days (easily could have spent two weeks here). I learned not to underestimate my boys. My boys are still 3 and 5 years old and her mom and I both can be a bit overprotective at times. The heart is right. We want them to be safe (and we want them to live). I say that tongue and cheek but serious all at the same time. Am I the only parent scared that I make the one mistake that ruins my kid for life? As parents, we certainly have those responsibilities as protector and care giver. But let’s not forget that even as toddlers and young children, these are people, individuals uniquely designed by God. And we as parents are not owners of these individuals. But, we are stewards.
With that in mind, I discovered in my boys over the last couple of days their innate desire to conquer, to be themselves and to test their abilities. And to my amazement somewhat, their mom and I both let them test those boundaries a bit. We walked along the river’s edge (no hand holding), got a bit close to some cliffs and a few heights, and climbed a decent elevation of loose rock to get to the Big Cave. I did very little prodding. All I had to do was ask, “boys, do you want to climb up into that cave?” (thinking that perhaps they may be a little afraid and back off). The answer? “Yes Daddy. Let’s do it!” And so we went.
I’m gonna brag a bit. These boys killed it. No whining and no complaining. Just a whole bunch of doing. They tackled the trails like champs, challenged one another and on one occasion, my 3 year old (Evan) confessed that he was stronger than me. Okay, slow down there son. Back that train up. And throughout our 2 days of adventure on the trails, there was quite a bit of jostling between the boys (myself included) over who was going to be the captain, in other words, who was walking first ahead on the trail. And I loved every minute of it.
The biggest moment to me personally was a brief experience with my son Grant. He’s five. When we got back to the RV from our adventure, he wanted to ride his bike. So, we went for it. A little background here is that Grant has been a little afraid of his “big boy bike.” He’s been afraid to fall, afraid to go fast, just afraid. And frankly, I blame myself for his fear. I feel as though I may have built into him an unbalanced sense of caution, for the forefront of his thought patterns to be the consideration of consequences in the case of failure. And I refuse to let that persist. But back to bike riding. So, we get back to the RV and he gets on his bike…and he’s off. I mean he just started pedaling and I actually had to jog a bit to keep up with him. Those training wheels were rocking back and forth and he hit a pothole or two and he just didn’t care. He kept on going. We made a couple of laps around the RV park and it was glorious.
We get back to the RV in time for dinner and Andrea (my wife) kind of gives me a look as to say, “what’s up with Grant?” He was glowing. Dare I say he felt like a man (or, at least a big boy). At that moment, his confidence level was a 10 and he was chest out and strutting his stuff. What happened? I let him walk the river’s edge. I let him explore the cliffs. I let him climb up into the cave. I let him discover himself a bit. And it changed everything.