It finally happened.
Up until now, when it comes to the kids, I've been the one leading the charge. I'm out in front, showing the way, extending a helping hand, shouting encouragement, letting them get ahead just enough to boost their confidence.
So I was unprepared the other day, when Anna invited me to join them on a hike up the "mountain" (really just the steep granite and moss of the Canadian Shield, but a good climb nonetheless).
Unprepared to find myself lagging behind as the kids leaped and jumped ahead of me, their feet surer than mine on the gorse and slate, their energy seemingly boundless, and their legs uncomplaining as they scrabbled over tree roots, under branches, through the mire and, impossibly, up the sheer rock face with only a tenuous hold on the twisted grasses that grew from the bare rock.
Unprepared to have Anna show me where to put my feet and how to hold onto the gnarled old tree branches to pull myself up and over.
Unprepared to have had them discover a place before me and lead me to it in excitement and wonder, spinning tales the way I always do, and stepping back to allow me to appreciate the moment of achievement when we stood at the top and looked out over the gold and crimson tree tops.
It's time to accept that I don't have little children anymore. They are strong and capable and confident youngsters who can make dinner, paddle a canoe, fix a fence, drive a tractor, and yes, lead the way up to the top of the mountain.