OPINION – It’s been said that one of the greatest rewards in life is to see your children grow up to be good people.
This saying rings absolutely true. I just didn’t expect them to grow up so soon.
The past couple of years have been very eye-opening for Becky and me as we went from having all six of our children living under our roof to having just the two youngest at home with us this past summer.
Our oldest daughter is now married and lives in Colorado. Our next-oldest daughter and our oldest son spent their summer working for a couple of fishing lodges in Ketchikan, Alaska. Our 15-year-old son had the opportunity to spend most of his summer working as a counselor at a scout camp in central California.
The sense of our nest becoming emptier took us by surprise.
At the same time, it was gratifying to see our kids getting to stretch their wings and gain experience that cannot be gained sitting at home.
When our son David returned from his scout camp experience to resume his sophomore year of high school, I saw a clear difference in how he sees himself. He spent the summer learning how to be a leader and mentor to younger scouts.
Being away from home, he developed a stronger sense of who he is and what he stands for. Without his mother and me there to influence his decisions, these were choices he had to make for himself.
Stepping out of the bubble in which we live here in Southern Utah, he became friends with scouts from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. He understands he doesn’t have to be like everyone else.
With a bit of persuasion, my oldest three children prevailed in getting me to fly to Ketchikan and experience what they’ve been up to. My oldest daughter and her husband drove up to British Columbia, caught the ferry and met me there at the end of September.
For a full week, my kids showed me the sights, took me fishing and introduced me to the adventure they’d been living for the past few summers.
Along the way, I had numerous opportunities to see my kids through new eyes. I saw how their work ethic and skills had developed over the time they had been away. I watched as my son Forrest expertly piloted a skiff out onto the ocean, helped us properly rig our fishing poles and showed me how to cut the salmon we caught into perfect chunks for smoking.
My second daughter, Brooke, introduced me to the dockside processing facility she helped run at the lodge in town. She and her fellow dock hands were models of efficiency in helping fishermen unload their catch, ice it down, process it, then bag and vacuum-seal it and ship it home.
The hours were long and their work could be highly demanding, yet the dock crews were as pleasant as they were skilled.
My oldest daughter, Maycyn, who met her husband, Joseph Christensen, three years ago during her first summer in Ketchikan, showed me how to professionally brine and smoke the salmon we’d caught earlier that week. When it was done to perfection, we vacuum-sealed it and boxed it up to bring home with us.
Throughout my trip, I encountered staff members and locals who had worked with my children and was told over and over again how much they appreciated my kids. There are few words that are sweeter to a parent’s ears than these.
As tempting as it may be to take partial credit for my kids becoming excellent individuals, I understand that the opportunity for adventure has had an undeniable effect for good on their development.
We live in such a fear-based culture today that the idea of letting our children go out and face the world seems foolhardy to some. Obviously, there are age-appropriate considerations, but when we don’t allow our kids to explore, we risk harming them by creating fear-inspired limits.
This willingness to allow our children to have adventures needn’t wait until they’re adults. Yet how many parents would quail at the thought of their son or daughter going off into the woods, by themselves, with a fishing pole or a rifle?
I understand the temptation some parents feel to supervise their child’s every move out of irrational fear that something horrible might happen.
Our children become better equipped to face the world when we teach them boldness by allowing them to learn how to stumble and rise again. They learn they can do hard things and that they don’t need to look to someone else to learn how to manage themselves.
Resisting that fear and allowing my kids to genuinely live their lives is helping to make them who they are.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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