[dropcap style=’box’]W[/dropcap]hat do 3000, 15, 9, and 18 have to do with Patagonia? This is not really a math question as much as it is a statement of performance. These four numbers highlight my son Brayden’s recent trip to the land of Patagonia in Argentina. They will always remind me of the amazing grit he showed throughout our time there.
In this blog, I aim to remind others of the surprising strength and resilience that young people astonish us with.
Northern Patagonia, in and around the town of Bariloche, staged the scene for Brayden’s performance. We traveled there for a month to explore the region and implement a brand new course for Summit Adventure. Brayden came along to help us develop a reasonable itinerary. For example, we selected a four-day trek that a local described to us as “challenging at times.” Turns out that just one day on this route required hiking 3,000 feet of elevation for 15 kilometers (about nine miles)–with full packs on, no less!
We needed to know if Brayden could complete the trek for two reasons. First, Summit Adventure is endeavoring to design family-friendly international courses full of the outdoor adventure that makes experiences distinctly Summit-like, yet workable for kids ages 8-12. Our Patagonia itinerary was both difficult and beautiful, so we needed Brayden’s opinion. Would the challenges be worth the scenery and experiences in a nine-year-old’s mind?
Second, we figured if Brady could handle the physicality of our itinerary, then the participants might also. After all, Summit exists to push people out of their comfort zones into learning zones where they must rely on God and others for help. Of course, if we push too hard with activities or experiences, we risk driving folks into the twilight zone–a place where, like in the old television show, the abnormal takes over and learning shuts down. Not good.
With that in mind, I watched Brayden as he hiked extremely well the day we trudged up 15 steep kilometers. He rambled on for three more days to complete the trek. Then he did it all over again a week later! Another day, he rock climbed. Needless to say, his physical feats amazed us adults.
Brayden’s interpersonal successes impressed me even more. Hanging out with college students over twice his age 24/7 would challenge any nine-year-old. Yet he quickly adapted to community life with 18 people much older than him, sharing and listening with remarkable clarity and maturity. I often heard him asking participants how they were doing, and then discussing their answers as if he was 10 years older.
Perhaps these surprises shouldn’t be so…astounding. I’ve thought often about Brayden’s stellar “performance” in Patagonia. Perhaps I give him too little credit for what he has done and is able to do. Then I think more broadly and begin to wonder if other parents are doing the same thing. Perhaps we are shortchanging the abilities of our children.
Perhaps we are shortchanging the abilities of our children.
I recently wrote a book about the remarkable wisdom and humor of young people called Hold Mine Hand. For a year, I compiled stories and quotes from my own three boys to encourage and remind parents of the “astounding-ness” that resides in all children. And yet I am still surprised when Brayden acts the way he did in Patagonia. Apparently, the business of parenting is so complex that we often and easily lose sight of our little ones’ value. Jesus admonishes us adults with some very strong words on this issue:
Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matt. 18:3-5, NRSV)
Jesus finds children so adept, he encourages us to realize their value and become more like them. Hmm, there’s a radical notion taught by Jesus himself—that I should try and emulate my Brayden! Perhaps you know some little people whose outlooks and beliefs are worth imitating.
Let’s be inspired by our kids and young people in general. They are far more capable than we think.