Tonight, I stumbled across something I wrote two years ago, when my oldest son was just 5:
"Occasionally, my 5 year old son and I will take a walk through the woods together to get to the playground behind our house. I know these woods well, and now that he's too big to carry there, I've started teaching him how to find his way over and around nature's obstacles: pricker bushes and thorns everywhere, skunk cabbage (no! don't kick that! sigh... nevermind), fallen trees and stone walls. At his height, the thorns can mean the difference between "we had an adventure!" and "I don't like the woods!" so I'm careful to lead him through the path of least resistance.
Ever walk anywhere with a 5 year old? The path of least resistance is completely invisible to them. Prepare yourself for the path of greatest distraction and discovery!
On one of our little wooded adventures recently, I was dutifully walking beside him, holding his hand occasionally but mostly holding thorn branches aside for him with a big stick. He's following me just as dutifully... then suddenly, I zig right but this time he zags left.
I try to appeal to reason, calling over to him as he's rapidly blazing a trail in the "wrong" direction; I explain that this path is easier, and has less thorns. He's not impressed. What he is impressed by is another dead tree and a stone wall he hasn't explored yet, and they're both about twenty five feet away from where I'd prefer him to be. I have no interest in going that way... I know better.
"I want to go this way," he calls back to me, and I'm thinking "yeah, well, you already have" - straight through the thorns I've been trying so hard to sweep aside for him all this time.
It was hard not to get choked up when I heard myself speaking this in response:
"That's okay, son. You can make your own path."
I hope to be consistent in saying that throughout every stage of his life."