A few years ago, I took my son camping for the first time. He was 5 years old and eager to pitch a tent, roast marshmallows, and sleep in the woods. I was just as eager because it was also my first camping trip.
The trip was an annual father/son activity organized by a couple of my friends. Their goal was to expose young boys to nature and allow dads to spend some uninterrupted time with their sons.
Over the weekend we did many of the typical camp activities such as fishing, canoeing, hiking, and telling stories around the campfire. But there was one activity that impacted me the most.
One of our hosts asked each dad to stand at the edge of the lake with his son. Next, he instructed us to blindfold our sons and walk 20 feet away from them. I was unsure about what was happening, but I complied. When we were out of our boys’ earshot, our host told us to call our sons and guide them to us with our voices.
I yelled my son’s name and he lifted his head and moved from side-to-side like a satellite dish tracking my signal. After a few seconds, he filtered out all of the other dad’s voices and locked on to mine. His steps were tentative at first, but I assured him that he would be okay if he listened to my voice and followed my directions. When he turned in the wrong direction, I guided him back on track. If he were in danger of crashing into another boy, I told him to stop until he was safe to proceed. Step by step, he inched closer and closer. His steps became more confident as the sound of my voice drew nearer. When he was about five yards away, I told him to run as fast as he could. He darted towards me and leapt into my outstretched arms.
“Daddy loves you,” I said as a gave him a bear hug.
“I love you too, Daddy,” he said while removing the blindfold.
This exercise was a powerful reminder of how we guide and lead our children through life. But it also made me think about the future. Will my son always listen for my voice? Will my voice be stronger than the influences of the media, peer pressure, and popular culture? If I call to him, will he always be willing to run into my arms?
These questions motivate me to build a stronger bond with my son. I want him to follow my guidance and trust that I will never lead him astray. I want him and seek my wisdom and know that I will always be in his corner. I want him to come to me for advice when he needs help.
However, I know that he will eventually pull away from me and seek his own path. I only hope that he will remember that camp exercise and listen for my voice when he’s facing dark days or feeling lost and confused because I’ll never stop calling out his name.
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