Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a kid on the inside. I still have an active imagination; I love to explore, and discovering new places opens up a host of possibilities in my mind—new adventures, new stories, new challenges.
While my inner child is always at play, he has grown older over the years and sometimes he needs a reminder about the things that matter… sometimes he needs to be challenged by the joy and imagination of children much younger and much less inhibited.
For spring break, my wife and kids headed to the Grand Canyon, while I flew to Florida for some work. A few days into their trip, I met them in Zion National Park. I arrived at the cabin where my family was staying at 1 in the morning and was woken by my three children (13, 10, and 9) a few short hours later. They were so excited about some hikes they had saved just for me.
We packed up our stuff, loaded the minivan, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out. The landscape in Zion was breathtaking. It’s hard not to feel small in such a place, but the excitement of my three kids had me rushing ahead alongside them, exploring nooks and crannies. Smiles accompanied the heavy breathing from climbs and questions about what we might find around the next bend filled our minds.
That night, we made our way to Bryce Canyon, but because of snow, most of the trails were closed. We hiked what we could while there, and the next day, we made our way to Capitol Reef. But on the way there we stopped at a State Park called Kodachrome.
We hiked through a barren landscape to structures that looked like blobs of clay dropped from the sky. These red structures offered many tight channels and holes to explore. My oldest daughter, Cambria, and I found a spot that seemed inaccessible, so we climbed our way to the top of the narrow space in between some rocks. The climb was sketchy, but after several slips and near misses with falls, we made it up the 60-foot climb and stood side by side in a bowl surrounded by red clay towers. Small slivers of bright blue told us where the sky was were visible. For a few minutes, she and I were the last people on earth.
“This is so cool!” said Cambria as she smiled.
My inner child was right there with her… so cool. I was sharing an adventure with my daughter, but not as her old dad. I was a kid doing kid things with my children.
A few days later we found our way to Goblin Valley where my wife and I climbed, crawled, and shimmied our way through more cracks and alcoves than we have in years. The kids hid, tried to scare us, sat atop natural thrones as a young king and queens, and the smiles and laughter could not be contained.
“Mom! Dad! Come check this out!”
“Hey guys, come over here!”
Every moment was filled with exploration, imagination, and joy.
We finished our week in Arches, and though we were tired from miles and hours of hiking, memories were etched deep in our minds and on our hearts.
The one that left the most significant mark on me isn’t a particular hike or landscape; it isn’t the joy on my children’s faces or the laughter that makes me smile as I write this. The single most powerful idea, maybe call it a lesson, that I hold from our time together is the power our children have to keep us young. Our bodies will age, our knees will ache, our steps will slow, but when we seek to experience things with them, and through them, a part of us is awakened—one that was never meant to fall asleep.
When life distracts me, when it vies for my time, my energy, and when I feel drained, I turn to my kids. They are gifts God has given me. Through their eyes and through their experiences, it’s as if he is saying:
Remember the joy, embrace the adventure, look for the wonder—life is better this way.