This morning, Jake and I were outside playing in the backyard, taking full advantage of the unseasonably cooler morning temperatures. I was sitting and enjoying my iced coffee while he toddled about the yard. As a new walker, I sit in the balance of letting him explore his new found independence while trying to keep him from smashing his face into the hard concrete. It can be difficult at times to allow him to hurt himself, knowing he won’t fully learn how to walk unless he knows how to fall. So I sat. Half relaxed and half ready to scoop him up at a moments notice. As Jake played, a bumblebee appeared. An intruder of our backyard haven. I jumped up ready to swat him away if he veered to close. Jake, on the other hand, was mesmerized. He was fascinated by this buzzing creature, a new addition to his tiny world. He watched in a trance until the bee got closer and then reached out with his chubby little hand. I immediately snatched him up. Perplexed, he writhed in my arms, trying to touch his new friend. I explained to him that this little bee, though cute, had a stinger and that if provoked, he would sting his little arm and it would hurt. But all Jake could see was something new and exciting… something he wanted to touch. In that moment, I realized that the next seventeen years will be filled with many moments just like that. Those moments will range from simple explanations of the dangers of a backyard bumblebee to life’s more complex subjects. And as I was lost in thought, I got a bit sad. The bee buzzed away in his quest for a flower and Jake went back to exploring the yard. But Jake’s little life had flashed before my eyes and the realization of his autonomy and free will hit me like a load of bricks. He won’t be a toddler forever (I’ve already accepted that). But the many life lessons yet to come seemed daunting. As his parents, we are tasked to train him and equip him. To get him ready for the big wide world beyond the backyard. We can have great conversations. Give him sage wisdom and deep insights learned from our own lives but, ultimately, the choice to apply that wisdom is up to him. We have no control over his life choices and, if I’m honest, that can be a hard pill to swallow at times. At the end of the day, Jake is a sinner just like me. He will be faced with moral quandaries and tough choices. He will be tempted by all the bumblebees of the world and will probably get stung more than once as he grows into the man he wants to be. Just as I can’t catch Jake every time he falls now, I have to allow him to make his own mistakes and learn his own lessons. The next seventeen years will be full of joy and probably some pain but thats how we grow. But for now, I choose to soak up our backyard adventures, watching my little person take his first steps in the wonderful journey we call life.