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Arianne Brown: Teach your children it's OK to go off the beaten path
Arianne Brown stops to take a picture during a run through an unmarked hillside. - photo by Arianne Brown
As I took my oldest two boys for a run on the nearby foothills, we came across a newly carved out single-track dirt trail I had never taken them on before.

Having run on it previously, I was excited to show them some new terrain. Because unlike many of the trails in the area, this one was not steep and rocky, but instead, winding evenly along the hillside in a path that was free from rocks and was soft and spongy underfoot.

For the next mile or so, we reveled in the splendor that was this newfound luxury, commenting to each other how utterly awesome it was. Almost as soon as it began, the trail suddenly stopped, leaving nothing but untouched hillside ahead.

Standing there at the dead end, we had a decision to make: go back the way we came, and take another path we knew well, or continue on, forging our path.

My boys were bummed that the trail had ended, and even more so at the thought of running through land that didnt have a clearly marked path.

Lets just go back, one of them said. The other agreed.

However, unbeknownst to them, I had ventured on beyond the dead end and knew that there were miles of endless possibilities ahead. I had experienced what it was like to choose my adventure as I let my feet feel the curvatures in the ground that had been carved out over by countless animals who have been occupying that part of the Earth for thousands of years.

I knew how free it felt to go beyond the beaten path to where my mind and body took me as opposed to following another persons idea of the best way to go. I also knew what it was like to make a mistake and fall to my knees, only to get back up and keep foraging either in the same direction or carve out a new path with fewer obstacles.

So, as I stood there with my boys, I urged them to keep going forward. I pointed at the place we needed to go and told them however they got there was fine they just needed to get there.

For the next couple of miles, I followed behind them. One son took a higher path while the other stayed more toward the middle, both having times of frustration when the path was too difficult and times of excitement when they had found a pathway that allowed them to move effortlessly in constant forward motion.

As their mother, I felt joy in watching them run free without the confines of the direct path. And as we neared our destination, I was proud that despite taking very different paths, they both made it to the destination point.

This is most definitely an example of a metaphor for life that I will spare explaining to you. However, it taught me one very important lesson: It's OK to let my children go off the beaten path as long as they know where they're going.
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