Part of the foundation of this great country is the fact it was built on the discoveries and accomplishments of great explorers. Men and women in search of what is beyond the existing limits. Minds that are compelled to press forward and not simply accept the status quo. Curiosity that drives innovation and advancement.
As a parent, I find it funny and ironic that these traits and characteristics that are so celebrated and held in such high esteem are basically the same characteristics of a small child. If you leave them be, kids will undoubtedly get bored with what they have now and seek out something new. Some new toy. Some new game. Some new adventure. And I was fortunate to have a chance to experience that this afternoon.
I live in a relatively new apartment complex in an ever-expanding suburb of Tampa, Florida. The design for the complex is fairly routine. A series of buildings with a handful of ponds strategically placed throughout the property. Small patches of conservation border the complex so as to create the illusion of seclusion from “the city”. It’s very nice and it creates a wonderful environment for my kids.
It’s also a safe place for us to ride our bicycles. So after I picked up Natalie and Daniel from school, we went out for a quick ride around the community. Usually we do one big loop and come back. Today, however, we stopped at the end of a parking area that was adjacent to a pond. Along the pond there was an embankment that served as a little trail to the furthest most edge of the complex. “Can we go this way, daddy?” It was as if they were compelled to follow the grass and dirt to see to where it would lead.
So off we went, dodging ant piles and dog poop, in search of whatever was beyond the asphalt and concrete. We came across a small retention wall that restricted the flow of water from the pond to a creek in the conservation area. The wall was no more than three feet high, but I am sure it seemed to them like an enormous dam. Daniel, the scout of our troop, lead the way and trepidaciously crossed first. One foot in front of the other, his balance was perfect so as to not plummet to his death. He challenged ant piles that lay like mines in a field that went on for miles and miles. He would look back and give us the signal that it was okay to proceed, all the while still wearing his bicycle helmet.
Natalie was clearly the science officer of this grand expedition. It was her duty to stop and inspect every plant, flower and insect we came across. In her mind, the images of fallen branches, flying birds and ripples in the water were captured, processed and recorded for later observation and reflection. Her keen study of the environment was interrupted only by her spontaneous need to shout, “Ohhhhhhhh. How cool!”
The mighty journey culminated as we came across some dandelions. I picked them each a bulb, told them to make a wish and blow. Daniel’s first blow being muffled by the strap of his helmet notwithstanding, we stood there in awe and watched the dandelion fluff escape into the air and glide across the wind. It was the crowning achievement to a successful expedition. I was left wondering for what each of my kids had wished, yet knowing that my wish to be a great dad to them continued to come through. For me, it was a pioneering moment indeed.