Our family is hiking at the Black Canyon today. It’s mid-afternoon and the sun is hot. We have stopped for a rest break. Our youngest son Zack is fussy and most of the kids are ready to head back to the van for the lunch waiting in the cooler.
Josiah, our soon-to-be-13 year old, has a different idea. This trail has 14 identification markers and we just passed number 11. For his perfectionistic, engineering-type mind, to end now is a torture. I watch him pace a few agitated steps ahead on the trail, throw a rock or two, straining his eyes to see what’s ahead. His obedient nature will not allow him to go too far beyond our hearing as our family hiking rules indicate. (One parent yells “Marco” and a Borgstede kid needs to call “Polo” to be considered in safe bounds.)
We make a plan for Mike and four of the kids to head back to the van and lunch, while Josiah and I hike forward to the end of the trail. Josiah takes the lead as I step in behind him. Despite my faithfulness to the gym and distance cyclist training, I struggle to keep up with his pre-teen energy.
Watching My Son
I watch my son. I have never raised a teenage boy before, and I’m learning as I go. Josiah is the most middle of my middle children, and smack dab in the middle of 5 kids is not an easy place to land. He’s an introvert who would spend most of his time in his “man cave” of a downstairs bedroom if our family members didn’t pull him upstairs on a regular basis.
God has given Josiah exceptional abilities in math and computer programming. Despite his quiet nature, Josiah is well-loved among his friends, known to be the buddy a guy can lean on for help. He is not overly quiet at home — he has no problem fighting with his brothers for what he feels is rightfully his, be it the blue Lego or a correct point of view.
Josiah and I come to the end of the trail. The view is amazing, and we are thankful we made it to the top. We use our phones to take pictures so we can share this scene with the rest of the family.
Josiah and I turn around to head back when I notice a large outcrop of rock directly in front of us. It seems completely disconnected from where we are standing. Amazingly, I see two people who have somehow climbed to the top. They look tiny from where we stand. Josiah is immediately intrigued and begins hunting for the way they have taken.
More sure-footed than I feel he should be, Josiah locates the path and shows me what it would take to get to the top of the rock incline. The path is narrow and there is a sheer drop-off in parts.
Out loud Josiah sighs and says, “I guess we need to be heading back to Dad and the other kids.”
His eyes betray his words and say, “I totally want to tackle this thing!”
My mother heart is conflicted. It looks dangerous. I don’t want him to climb up there. I don’t want to climb up there. I’m hot, I’m tired, I’m hungry. I’m sure as heck not letting him climb up there by himself, so if he’s going, I’m going.
“I don’t think so, Josiah. You don’t have the right shoes, and besides, the rest of the family is waiting for us.”
Josiah doesn’t argue and we start down the mountain. He only says one more comment, “I don’t know when I will come back here again.”
I stop on the trail. I remember what I’ve read in John and Stasi Eldredge’s book, Captivating. Every man needs a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. One of my tasks as the mom of a teenage boy — and at times biggest challenges — is giving him space to find his own of each.
A Brave Mom
Before I quite realize it, I hear myself say, “Alright, you can climb up that rock. Let’s go back.”
I breath a prayer for safety. Please, God, don’t let him fall. I hope I made the right choice.
Stepping our way carefully along the trail, we hang on to tree roots and branches, and climb on all fours in places. Then the trail levels off and we are able to walk for a few steps. We reach the bottom of the rock face. I’m thankful I’ve done some indoor rock climbing. It’s time to scramble up. Josiah has done this at camp so I’m trusting his abilities. We begin our ascent and the hand holds are sound. I remember what I’ve learned. Make a triangle. Two solid foot holds and one good hand hold and I’m secure. Trust that the next hold will be there.
Josiah checks in with me often, “Are you doing okay, Mommy? This isn’t so hard!”
We crest the top and sit down to take in the view, which is spectacular from this height. I do not resist giving Josiah several reminders to please be more careful along that ledge. I allow myself this indulgence. I am, after all, still the mother.
My son is courageous and today for him, so am I.