Parenting: A Marked or Unmarked Path?

I thought of all of you (all of the moms reading this blog) a couple of weekends ago when Woody and I started out on a morning of hiking.  We were at a state park in Door County in northern Wisconsin that we had visited a few years ago, and there was one particular trail which Woody remembered that he wanted to revisit.  It wound down some fairly steep cliffs (for us amateur hikers, that is) to become a lovely walk along the lake, with beautiful vistas over Lake Michigan.

At least that’s how we remembered it.  The problem was that we couldn’t find it!  We returned to the area where we thought the trailhead had begun, and there seemed to be absolutely no sign of this trail.  That was my impression, anyway.  Woody, on the other hand, bold explorer that he is, was quite sure he had located the start of the trail.  No, there was no sign there.  But there did seem to be a worn path leading down toward the lake.  And he was sure this must be the trail he remembered.

Now you need to know that this was in an area where all the trailheads are clearly marked.  We had parked in a visitor lot where there was a map of area trails.  And there were several other trail entrances that were clearly marked.  No sign of ours, however.  And both of us were confused by the map.  (An unusual event in Woody’s case.  He LOVES maps, and seems to have been born with a map in his brain. I, on the other hand, am perpetually confused by maps.  I much prefer written directions!)

As any of you who are married can guess, our day of happy hiking didn’t start out so well.   After considerable debate, we went with Woody’s initial plan.  We started out on the trail he was very sure was the one he remembered.  Despite the absence of any sign marking the beginning of a trailhead, we began to pick our way down a small bit of trail winding its way through overgrown roots along a rocky descent toward the lake.

As we proceeded, I couldn’t help but note (out-loud, you can be sure!) that not only had there been no sign at the beginning; there were also no little signs along the way—the small brown markings all the other trails in the area seemed to have indicating you were on the right path and headed toward your intended destination.

The path became increasingly indistinct—and simultaneously much steeper.  Finally I  couldn’t go any farther.  “Woody, I just can’t go on.  This is making me way too uncomfortable.  The path is becoming steeper and more overgrown, and I really don’t want to either get lost in these woods or go flying down this cliff directly into the lake.  I need some assurance that we’re on the right path.  I need signs.  I need a clearly marked trail.”

I think Woody was actually beginning to feel the same way, though he hadn’t so far mentioned it.  (He is Swedish, in case any of you aren’t aware of that.  This means a lot of things, but especially that he is very determined.  Some might say stubborn; but Woody does have a mostly endearing way of being determined, so I’ll stick with that.)  So yes, my Swedish husband admitted that we should probably turn around and retrace our steps.  We went back to the parking lot, looked at the map again (Woody did, anyway) and eventually drove to another visitor lot where we did indeed find the trail we had been looking for—signs and all.

So what does this have to do with all of you?  What does this have to do with parenting? As I was walking, I kept thinking of how hiking is like parenting.  It’s a long, hard, winding trail that requires our full attention.  Like the path we were on which was overgrown with roots and very rocky in spots, there are stages when all you can do is focus where you put your next foot.  It’s hard to even look up to what’s ahead, and sometimes nearly impossible to even enjoy the scenery around you because just making your way along the path takes all the energy and focus you’ve got.

But thank God it is not an unmarked path.  We have a guide book—God’s Word.  And we have clear signs along the way—both from the Bible and from other fellow travelers.  And we are not alone.  There are those walking alongside us as well as those farther down the trail that can call back and steer us in the right direction, cheer us along the way.

It’s really what Mom to Mom is all about.  We remind each other that we’re not on an unmarked path.  There is signage provided, direction given both from God’s Word and God’s people.  There are those who’ve gone before, both great men and women of Scripture and “Titus 2” moms, cheering us along the way.  They reach out when we need a hand.  They tell stories from further up the trail.  They provide company along the way.  They point us upward to the One who never ever leaves us alone, even for a minute, on this parenthood path.

How I hope and pray that all of you reading this either have Mom to Mom or something like it in your lives.  It helps you know you are on the right path, it helps clarify your intended destination, and it makes for much happier hiking!