On a warm afternoon in November, under the clear, blue skies of Oklahoma, I took my son to the mountains.
He had never climbed the Wichita Mountain boulders before.
I felt his curiosity, fearlessness, excitement and joyful radiance dance from his being and then latch onto mine.
I must admit that my fear overpowered me from sinking into the experience like he did—the fear of him making one wrong step, slipping on a rock, and spiraling down the mountain.
As we climbed further up, we hit blocks along the pathway that made it difficult to go forward. But he wanted to continue on so badly, as he has the confidence of a wolf.
I decided to make us pivot, turn around and go back down the mountain. We didn’t have a slackline, we weren’t wearing climbing shoes, and I was scared enough of his bravery for the both of us.
He was upset with me for about 200 meters. But as we continued our climb down, we came across a porcupine and witnessed the soaring grace of hawks. We looked out at Mother Earth and her magnificent landscape, and for a moment he forgot about not reaching the top.
He is eight years old and has passionately set his compass toward this unapologetic, wild ambition. Something most adults have forgotten about.
Just like leaving never-never land, we forget to hold the hands of our inner child—to get dirty, run through the fields barefoot and climb branches of the trees that have ancient stories tell. We forget the wildness that lives inside of us all, screaming at us, trying to get our attention focused back on collecting experiences instead of things.
As children we become programmed to wanting “stuff” after a certain age. We ask, “What am I going to get out of this?”
We forget about the pet rocks, fishing poles made of sticks, forts held together by sheets, and bug containers made of boxes and saran wrap.
We forget that Disney World used to be a place in our own backyards. Mickey Mouse used to be an invisible friend named Cacao who lived on Pluto. The rides were our go-carts, bikes, horses, and wooden rope swings wrapped tightly to the branch of a wise oak tree.
Our souvenirs were feathers gifted from the wings of birds, acorns that let go of the tree that created them, leaves that turned colors you couldn’t describe and butterflies that left their bodies, leaving their beautiful wings behind.
Our food was grown in a garden, on a bush or harvested from a tree.
I have decided to let this child within me breathe again. To grab my son’s hand and get dirty, to be barefoot more often, to run into the woods howling, to jump into the cold stream in order to wake up.
I realize that when I connect more deeply, when I lose fear and become adventurous with my son, I am parenting from my inner child. And I am awakening the little girl who always used to live in a daydream.
When I must teach him boundaries, safety and knowledge from my 31 years of life, I will.
I know I can’t just be his friend all the time—sometimes I have to be the one who takes us back down the mountain.
But if I don’t silence my fear, reclaim my inner wild and let my son guide me at times, I may miss the ride he is meant to take me on. I may allow the illusion of fear to sabotage our experiences. I may have been able to reach the top of the mountain the whole time, but by thinking it was too dangerous, I stopped us both.
All we can ever really trust is our intuition.
I may never take my son to Disney World, as he begs after viewing the commercials that are designed to pull him in.
He may not understand this, and may feel as though an amusement park made of plastic, metal and people dressed in characters is what kids are supposed to experience. He will want the Mickey Mouse hat, overpriced food, and rides that go in circles. He will forget that the magical place is within him, not a destination.
But when I begin to show him the world, he will not be a guest checking into a theme park as a tourist. He will be returning home to himself on foreign lands.
He will climb boulders, trek through jungles to get to the shores of the ocean, and swim in the streams that flow from the melting snow of mountain tops.
He will learn about his path, his desires, his fears, his joys and his bliss through the experiences of nature, culture and people he meets along the way.
He will learn that nothing can remind him of who he is more beautifully than his own life experiences.
Nothing he could ever buy or latch onto—not on a roller coaster, TV screen or magazine, will make him feel alive like these eye-opening experiences.
That day on the mountain has become a metaphor for my life. It represents the idea of turning around when your intuition tells you to do so, but still allowing happiness to come forth without disappointment taking you over. The idea of letting my son guide me at times and allowing myself to listen to him, sparking the playful adventure within me again.
And it reminds me that he will inevitably get hurt, have his heart broken and stumble in life at times. I cannot prevent these things from happening throughout his life, and I ultimately must come to accept that.
On the day I became a mother, life changed for me. And when life changes, we can either fill ourselves with fear or reclaim our inner wildness.
We can decide to navigate the hardest parts of our lives from the perspective of the joyful child within each of us.
Author: Britt Johnson
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton