“There are some eels that shoot fire and some that shoot slime.”
My son, Desmond, and his cousin, Kellen, meandered along Glacier Creek, firing their stick guns into the chilly waters at their imaginary foes. The two five-year-olds forged their friendship with outlandish stories and whispered potty talk as we wandered the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park just a few months ago.
We hiked at a snail’s pace, which was exactly what these little boys needed.
“My gun needs to charge its battery with nuclear power in this puddle.”
I am not wired for meandering. I’m a Type A pureblood, almost always choosing the fastest route between here and there. But having kids is taking off my edge. It’s unmaking my efficiency.
As a Colorado dad, hiking is a regular activity for our family. We love to find new parks and new trails to explore together. But hiking isn’t what it used to be. We break no records and never “make good time.” It’s not for a lack of trying, however. For too long, I would stress over hurrying my kids along. I would prod them to drop the sticks, return to the path, and get on with our adventure.
But I was missing the adventure my kids were trying to have.
“This secret note on the rock says there are one hundred and billion dragons ahead. We have to be careful.”
I could have written down dozens of these priceless one-liners between Kellan and Desmond. Their conversations were wild and hilarious, full of verbosity and adventure. But how many conversations like this have I missed? In my rush to get through hikes—or baths or walks or commutes—have I missed an opportunity to battle dragons, harness nuclear power, and encounter slime-wielding eels?
Being a dad demands we recalibrate our pace. Being a dad rearranges our priorities and upends our self-centeredness.
Dutch philosopher, Herman Bavinck, once wrote that children “develop within their parents an entire cluster of virtues …children place restraints upon ambition [and] as with living mirrors they show their parents their own virtues and faults.”
Fatherhood invites us to slow down and nurture the adventurous spirit within our children. It invites us to uncover our true selves—good and bad—as we do. When we do, it might just unlock a little bit of the adventurous spirit we’ve stifled within ourselves.
Kids can recalibrate our pace around the house (scavenger hunts are a rather roundabout way to find something) and in the kitchen (involving kids in pizza making isn’t a time-saving approach to dinner prep) as they do on the hiking trail.