I have two daughters, 8-year-old Jules and 6-year-old Alex. Like any parent, I only want the best for them, so I’m always looking for ways to teach about life using concrete terms to make it easier to understand.
I was fortunate to get an opportunity to have an unexpected teaching session with them when we almost got lost while walking in the forest. The funny thing is, as I was giving them lessons, I was learning something myself while reinforcing some of the things I already knew.
My eldest daughter had outdoor schooling in a forest camp near the school. Unfortunately, she left her water bottle and thermos with hot cocoa in the base.
We agreed to return on Saturday to retrieve them and asked my youngest daughter, Alex, to come with us so we could get some fresh air and exercise.
I’ve never been to that camp, so I let Jules lead the way since she has been there two or three times, and Alex and I will follow her steps. There was one thing; she couldn’t remember the whole way to the camp (I learned about this in the middle of the journey).
To make a long story short, we found our way back eventually and accomplished our goal of retrieving the water bottle and thermos. But not after a bit of adventure first.
Here’s what happened.
The first few minutes of the tour went normally.
It was a lovely day to take a walk in the woods. It was a chilly 15-degree autumn morning, but the light breeze made me feel like it was 10 degrees. The leaves were in different shades of yellow, red, orange, green, and brown. The birds singing and the wind are music to my ears.
I was amazed at how efficiently my kids navigated around and over slippery rocks and fallen trees. There were plenty of pats on the back, and I was lavish at praising them each time they handled a challenging terrain.
There were ponds, bogs, and squirrels. There are different-colored mushrooms, funny-shaped twigs, and many more. This meant we kept stopping to wonder at that red mushroom with black dots or that lovely pond to throw some stones in.
The first few times we did it was fun. But as we kept walking, I realized we stopped more often, making our tour longer.
I told them it was nice to stop to enjoy the scenery but reminded them why we were in the forest in the first place.
Lesson #1 — Stop and enjoy the scenery, enjoy small victories, but don’t let them distract you from your ultimate goal.
It wasn’t long after we encountered a sort of intersection in the forest. This was where Jules first faced uncertainty.
Photo by Nikita Vashchenko on Unsplash
I told her there was only one way to find the right path: we had to try them individually.
First, we tried the path going right. We took about 50 steps before realizing it wasn’t the right path, so we turned around and took the way going left.
We kept walking until we saw a cottage. This wasn’t the right way either. Jules was sure they didn’t walk past a cabin on the way to the camp, so we went back and took the path going straight ahead. It was also the wrong way.
In the end, she said the way going right was probably the correct one, we just had to walk up the hill, and the camp should be there.
I told Jules this would be our last attempt, and if we still couldn’t find the camp, we’d go home, consider the water bottle and thermos lost, and buy new ones instead.
The camp wasn’t up the hill.
By then, we had a good idea that all paths didn’t lead to our goal, so rather than go around in circles, guessing which way to take, we decided to cut our losses and return.
Lesson #2 — it’s better to make the wrong decision than not make one. Mistakes teach and guide us to make better decisions in the future. Indecision nails you to the same place.
Six-year-old Alex was tired and frustrated after going around in circles and was on the verge of tears.
I can’t blame her. While Jules and I could keep going, her tiny legs could only carry her so far. Also, I lost track of time and had no idea how long we had been walking (probably around one hour already).
It was a good time to rest and give Alex some much-needed encouragement. I let her know we could sit down for a while and continue when she was ready and that she could tell us when she was tired so we could take another break.
Lesson #3: Taking a break is okay when you’re exhausted. Sit down, catch your breath, get up and keep going.
We were back at the intersection, where we had to decide which way to go.
As we started our walk back to the car, Jules kept looking left and right until she recognized a path hidden by trees and thick bushes that led up. She saw the track and said we’ll find the camp if we climb the rocks.
I asked if she was sure because I would take one more chance at finding her water bottle if she knew which way we were going. She was confident we’d see the camp this time.
And sure enough, we found a big tent and a camp.
Photo by Olga Budko on Unsplash
Apparently, Jules didn’t know which path to take at the intersection because she had not gotten that far into the forest. She kept looking around until we were in a place she recognized.
We were already so close to the camp it would’ve been a shame if we gave up and left.
Lesson #4 — Life’s circumstances can change in a snap. Keep working because perseverance pays off.
I could almost touch the thermos and water bottle. We only had to go to the spot where Jules left them, and we could go to Burger King because all the walking made us hungry.
But they were not there.
Did anyone take them? Did the wind blow them over and roll somewhere? Or did Jules leave them somewhere else?
As exhausted as the kids were, they enthusiastically searched the camp. They looked under rocks, behind bushes, and anywhere the bottles could have fallen or rolled.
But we couldn’t find them. Defeated, tired, and hungry, we decided to leave the camp and get something to eat.
At the last minute, I decided to look inside the tent (because I was curious to see what was inside). Guess what we found? The water bottle and thermos.
We did not know how they got there. Someone must have found them and left them inside the tent for safekeeping. Jules was sure she left it on a rock and didn’t leave them in the tent. Anyway, the lesson is…
Lesson #5 — Think outside of the box. You might find what you’re looking for.
We were returning to the car when we encountered a fork in the path.
I already knew both paths led us back to the parking lot, but I asked my kids to lead the way so they could feel in charge.
Alex wanted to take the path going right, and Jules wanted to take the way going left because it was the “right” way since it was the path we took a while ago. While it was true, I said to give Alex a chance to decide and follow the direction she wanted.
We followed Alex’s lead. As I said, it led us back to the car, but we found something along the way that we wouldn’t have seen if we had taken the other path: A flower painted onto a rock.
It was a decent painting at best, probably done by a ten-year-old, but it looked like a million bucks for my kids, who love drawing and painting.
Lesson # 6 — There is more than one way to get to your destination. Each path you take contributes to your life experiences. Keep an open mind, and be open to suggestions from others, or you might miss something.
Finally, we were inside the car. The total time we walked: One and a half hours. Not bad for a Saturday workout!
I was sweaty but had so much fun that I did not notice we were gone that long. And although the kids were hungry and exhausted, and Alex nearly had a meltdown, they also enjoyed our forest trip.
Most importantly, we achieved our goal.
So the last, but not the least lesson is…
Lesson # 7 — It’s important to choose who you travel with in the journey of life. They could:
Help bring you to your destination (Jules)
Provide guidance and wisdom to make the right decisions (Me)
Bring laughter and entertainment. Also could slow you down sometimes (Alex)
Bonus lesson — Be there to guide your kids but let them find their way and make decisions themselves. Watch their confidence grow each time they learn or do something right.
What a learning experience it was
The trip to get Jules’ stuff back was supposed to be an exercise and an opportunity to get some fresh air, but it turned into something more meaningful: a concrete lesson my kids can learn from.
I asked what they had learned, and they first said not to forget their stuff. It is technically correct, but that’s on top of the other things.
Maybe they would forget the lessons, maybe they won’t, perhaps they would remember some parts. But I do hope that when they are grown up and have computers and cellphones, that they find this post online and be reminded of our Saturday morning adventure, the lessons they learned, and how much daddy cares for them.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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