Do Steep Things

I can't believe how short my 7-year-old daughter's legs are, and they still continue to push, up and over the rocky obstacles on this steep trail. She looks up, determined, and asks when we will be at the "P."

I'm tired, dragging with each step and I look back at my wife and our other two kids, with one hand holding the dog's leash and my other clasped around my youngest daughter, trying to control both, and mention that we seem to always seek out steep trails for our family hikes.

This hike isn't especially long, and it's not as steep as the one we all did in Hawaii, where we had to cling to a chain and pass a couple of "if you value your life, you will turn around right now" signs and I questioned my judgment as a protector of the family as my wife and I took turns holding tightly to our kids as we made the final climb up the unnamed trail to the radio tower overlooking Waimea Canyon.

Every time we leave our house, we can see the giant "P" on the hill and the kids have asked to hike up there for years. It's not a long hike, but it was steeper than it looked, and when we finally made it to the white rocks that make the "P," my kids didn't realize that we were even standing on it.

I couldn't sleep last night because of this tightness in my chest. It happens a lot and I have a hard time controlling it. Meditation helps, some other things help, but it doesn't go away for good. I'm nervous for my kids. I want them to always be safe. My mind jumps from that to people that I may have hurt. I mentally catalog the shit-talking I have done lately, the sarcasm that seems funny at the time, but should be filtered. There are other things I think about that aren't quite as important, but they still occupy my thoughts in the middle of the night. This is the time of year when I plan adventures for the upcoming year, and there are a few things I want to do that really scare me. Races that I don't think I can finish, and routes that I know will test the limits of my endurance.

There have been some amazing sunsets over the last couple of weeks, and every chance I get, I try to recruit my family into driving up to the tallest hill in the area, and I drive fast in order to beat the sun before it slips into the ocean. My son is the most eager to go. He's not that into sunsets, but he loves climbing up and down this really steep trail from the children's playground to this tree at the viewing area. The trail scares me because if he fell, or slipped, it is steep enough that he wouldn't be able to stop himself until he hit the bottom which would be a painful, but not life-threatening slide of about 30 feet. I try not to watch as he makes excuses to take the trail down to the playground, then back up. I can see other parents looking at me, looks of disapproval, or maybe envy. He won't sit still until the sun actually sets, and only with the promise of the legendary green flash, will he watch the sun dip into the water.

I let him run down from the parking lot to the bottom of the hill, where I meet him with the car. It's dark, it's steep, and he loves it. He runs so fast, and with such abandon, that I usually don't have to wait longer than about a minute as he makes the 1/2 mile run. I worry that he'll slip and fall in the dark, and I mostly worry that my wife will say "I told you so" because it is something that she would never let him do, and she makes a point of telling me that as he breathlessly recounts his adventures to her and my oldest daughter when we get home. I don't tell them how I waited at the bottom of the hill, nervously squinting my eyes in the dark, hoping to see my son turn that last corner and run into my arms.

It's not like I teach him this shit. We do steep things, and I don't even encourage it. They wear me down, until I eventually say yes, let's make the climb, or yes, you can run down the hill in the dark, but I say yes and I think it's a good decision and I think it's the right decision (mainly because nobody has gotten seriously hurt, yet), and when I see that determination in my daughter's face, and her pride at the top when she realizes that the painted white rocks covered with graffiti laying in what seems to be haphazard piles actually make up the giant "P" that they see whenever they drive anywhere within five miles from our house. We will continue to do steep things against better judgement, and fighting back my own fears and reservations, because my kids need to know that we can do steep things. It doesn't matter if they are young, or their legs are short, or they are thirsty and hungry, or they are girls. They can do steep things.

Sometimes the steepest thing is getting out of bed, after a night of no sleep, and putting on a happy face as the kids show me what trouble the Elf on the Shelf got into, and not really knowing what is wrong. On days like today, climbing up a mountain with my family, is the least steep thing I can think of doing.

Thanks for reading.

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