Guiding Kids: A Father's Story
“Let's do it again!”
These might be my four favorite words to hear at the end of an adventure day with my kids. My life has been filled with many activities that fall into the category of what one would normally call “adventure.” I grew up in Oregon surrounded by hills and woods, logging roads and animals. Some days I went exploring on horseback or motorcycle and other days, I was on my hands and knees following the smallest animal trails through the underbrush. Cuts, bruises and getting dirty were a daily occurrence in my life as my family and I went about doing our chores, taking care of farm animals, and playing in the woods.
Now, as a husband and father, I am trying to create opportunities for my children to have adventures of their own. We live in a neighborhood and to find freedom like I had as a kid--to run and explore--we have to walk for a long time or get in the car and drive. This means I have to be intentional. It also means that what I see as adventurous can be scary to my family and what is adventurous to them is sometimes boring to me. (Full disclosure: This has caused more than one fight with my wife. We may or may not still be figuring this out...)
Recently, I took our two children to the old school and playground that is just down the road from us. After playing for a little while, I led them around the building and into the narrow strip of trees that separate the school from a hay field. At the edge of the woods, I asked the kids to find a trail that would lead us into the trees and down the hill. They each found a deer trail and took off down the hill. They discovered Y after Y in the trail and endless options of direction and difficulty. We spent the next half hour following the trails and talking about them.
What kind of animal made the trail? Why are there so many paths? How do we know that we are right about the animal who made it? Who else in the area could see us or the animals on the trail? Does more than one type of animal use this trail? How big of a path would a smaller animal leave? The same questions I asked when running, crawling, and exploring as a kid.
“Adventure” always makes me think of the woods and mountains, whitewater rafting and kayaking. It takes me back outside to the sights and smells of my childhood, of wet grass and new growth on the fir trees. But now the meaning has greater depth.
Marriage is an adventure. Making friends or applying for a new job is an adventure. If we define “adventure” as any activity with an unknown outcome, we begin to see a connection between hanging on the end of a rock climbing rope and entering a new school for the first time. Life as a whole is a big adventure. Sometimes it is great, but sometimes we feel like it is out of control and in danger of going horribly wrong.
Alone this becomes very intimidating, but with a guide or someone who has experience walking alongside us as we discover new paths in life, it can become an adventure. Having a father or a friend to explore with lowers the feelings of risk and fear inhibit us from venturing forward.
Personally, facing life adventures has sometimes been overwhelming. Without my faith in God and the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit, I would struggle with just living life--let alone reaching out to others around me who are in need of hope and a helping hand. Knowing that Jesus has walked this path before and His presence is with me gives me great courage to face my adventure as a father and a husband and a ministry leader.
As we left the trees and trails behind and headed for home, it was on my heart that I wanted them to know that the path to following Jesus can be as exciting and alluring as what we had just experienced. If I can be their guide until they fully grasp their identity in Christ, I will have offered them an adventure that is even better than my own childhood. Both kids looked at me as we walked home and said, “Dad, let’s do it again!”
Adam is wild about extreme adventure. Any conversation of whitewater rafting, backpacking, exploring, or just being outside is met with a huge smile and a twinkle of excitement in his eye. If you need an adventure buddy, he is always willing and stoked! His kids, ages 12 and 9, are inheriting this same love and excitement and are often found outside with animal track guides and binoculars.More About the Rice Family