Today I had a LOT of fun. I got to take my two youngest children and my wife on a short hike. We drove out to Usury mountain and did the peak trail - it's not a terribly long or trail, but that was kind of the point. Gavin has been on the trail before and he made it all the way to the top and back without any difficulty at all. He is an eager and willing participant in hiking with me and I simply need to provide him with more opportunities to go out with me. This is something I hope to accomplish in abundance this hiking season.
Sabrina, however, presented a bit of a challenge. Sabrina has some kind of neuro-muscular problems. We're not sure exactly what it is, but it has been labeled as Cerebral Palsy - which we have learned is a kind of catch-all term for "there is something wrong most likely with her neural system but we're not really sure about what exactly it is." But, it is a term people tend to understand to a certain degree, so we use it to describe her problems. A detailed description of all of the complications is not necessary - but for the purposes of this story it is enough to know that she has problems with strength and endurance in her legs and with coordination in her movement and balance. Nothing really major, just enough to occasionally terrify the life out of you when she is walking or (especially) when she is running. She falls regularly and her poor knees are almost always covered in scabs and scars of various stages of repair.
So, as you might imagine, hiking in the desert is more than just a little terrifying for us as her parents. One fall at the wrong time would result in, at best, more skin being removed from her knees or hands or, at worst....well, we don't like to think about that too much. However, here is the hard part: she LOVES to hike with her daddy. She asks me all the time when we will go hiking again - and we've only taken her hiking a half dozen times in her life. She is utterly without fear. Which all by itself the most terrifying thing about it. She somehow has not yet grasped that she would be, quite literally, in mortal danger if she were to accompany me on any number of my favorite hiking trails.
So, there we were: hiking on a mountain side with lots of loose gravel and plenty of cactus around for her to fall into. A father's worst nightmare for a child who can only walk as well as your average toddler. Yet somehow, I knew it would be okay. My biggest concern of the day was not the fear of her falling, but rather concern for her strength and stamina. The biggest problem of the day was that she didn't want to give up! She wanted to go all the way to the top. It was really only my warning to her that the top of Usury mountain had a couple of hives of wild desert honey-bees (which is true) that kept her from insisting to go on. We actually had to convince her that we needed to turn around and go back. It turned out that we were correct as she was really starting to get fatigued by the time we got back to the car.
I'm not sure if I can communicate what a miracle this event was for me. Not that she made it, that was no surprise at all; she's a trooper and she simply refuses to accept that she is any different from her brothers or anyone else for that matter, so her competitive spirit was going to keep her going. The miracle was that my mind was freed from being hyper protective of my little girl and letting her complete the hike on her own without any help from me. There was also another miracle that I didn't really recognize so much at the time but in retrospect was actually pretty amazing: on a trail that provided her with ample ways and means of falling, she only fell once, in the most innocuous of ways (tripping over a small rock) and in probably what was the safest place along the trail (a small flat space free of cactus).
Today I am grateful for two blessings: for the assistance that I'm absolutely certain Sabrina got from her Heavenly Father in staying upright and staying out of danger, and, what was possibly an even greater miracle, being given a calming spirit that helped me to let my daughter do something that was important for her to complete on her own without my help or interference.