I got to thinking.
Parents provide the footsteps for our children to follow. When kids are young they don’t know where to go. Without a path, without guidance, without direction a child would go the wrong way. They would wander into the woods and get lost. They would chase a ball into the street without looking both ways. They would climb the monkey bars well before they had the strength to hold themselves up. Young kids are often guided by any attractive, shiny distraction. Their impulsive joy-seeking heart leads the way.
When they are adolescents they would follow the footsteps of the wrong crowd which can lead to breaking curfew. They would follow the peers into the woods toward the case of beer. They would stroll to the back of the convenience store head down, staring at the heels of the friend who just bought a pack of cigarettes or a new vape. When they are adolescents they are often guided by their overwhelming desire to fit in and be accepted by their friends. Their insecure, social approval-seeking heart leads the way.
We are walking in the snow, getting closer to home, and you say, “Daddy, take smaller steps so I can follow easier, my steps aren’t big enough.” Initially I comply, my steps shorten and you smile. Then I take big exaggerated steps and you say, “Hey, I can't follow those steps?” I’m making the path for you now. You need a lot of guidance to stay safe and healthy. You need a path to become hard-working, smart, kind, funny… You need a trail to become aware of others and your own thoughts and feelings. I’m going to guide you, but I’m not going to get in your way, I’m not going to prevent you from failing, from feeling pain. Pain and joy, success and failure, disappointment and achievement are things which will allow you to create your own footsteps, create your own path, when you are ready. There will come a time when you pass me in the snow and you will not have my steps to guide you. What you will have is your own compass: discipline, kindness, intelligence, awareness, vision… And all of those bumps, scrapes, bruises, heartbreaks, frustrations, mistakes, failures, and moments of insecurity have created your resiliency, your grit, your ability to deal with life. When you create your own path you will get lost, feel scared, you will trip and fall. You will use yourself to find your way, to summon your bravery, to get back up, and start making footsteps again. You will do this without me, which makes me sad to think that there will be a time when you are not a few steps behind me on a happy walk home. You will do this without me which makes me proud to think that you are on your way to becoming the perfect person I see every day.
Go make some footsteps.