Sunday, June 23, 2013

Doing Hard Things

We canoed/kayaked for a couple of hours on Saturday morning. It was quite the undertaking getting gear and kiddos situated, but the peacefulness of the river, when my offspring were not bickering, was awesome. But lest the photos paint a fictional tale, I must confess what you cannot see: whining, immature bladders and frequently hungry tummies. Real life.
I teased (sort of) that I summoned a weekend's worth of patience by noon Saturday--and found myself SO grateful for my husband who balances me out by having patience in spades.

Because the river is very calm with no rapids, we allowed the children some freedom/experience about an hour into our adventure. All four got into a kayak together while we paddled beside/behind them in a canoe. It went well at first, then they started floating sideways downstream towards a fallen tree. My husband & I were about 20 feet behind them when we realized they were heading for a snag.

My immediate reaction was to start paddling hard to try to get between them and the obstacle. My husband opted for coaching them through it. The kids got clobbered by lots of green leaves, but the current was so slow no one was tipped from the kayak--there were not even any scratches once we picked the cobwebs off of their arms and removed the broken tree limbs from the boat.

As my husband coached the foursome through the importance of teamwork--and not freaking out--I was pondering how to tie their boat to ours for the rest of the trip. While we did put an adult back in to insure our take out point wasn't missed, my husband talked me through why 'bail outs' aren't the best long term strategy.

In the 36 hours since, the little adventurers have relished telling the story of their challenge--and the overcoming.

Today as the foursome completed a triathlon, I found myself in a similar quandary. One of my people experienced some anxiety while waiting for the race to begin. I could read their face. I saw the chest being clutched, the ears being plugged and overheard a comment about feeling sick. Even though I KNOW BETTER, the 'mama' in me wanted to pull the anxious one out of the line with hugs and assurances that they didn't have to do it.

As my husband reassured me that it really would be fine, my anxious one jumped in the pool--and ran their best race ever. After the race, with no prompting at all this medal wearing little person grinned and said, "I am so proud because I ran even when I didn't feel like it."

I have talked the talk about teaching independence and tenacity for years--but when the rubber meets the road, I am too often tempted to take the easier way out. To let them quit. To remove the obstacle. To body block the potential disappointment. To remove the thing siblings are fighting over instead of requiring them to work it out. To take away the abused privilege without any discussion about how to handle it more responsibly.

In the short term it makes me feel like a loving, efficient or sane parent (depending on the situation) but this weekend I was reminded to slow down and take a deep breath more often. It is time to be really intentional about coaching my 9 year olds through hard things even though it takes longer and requires more mental/physical/spiritual energy than a knee jerk solution.

There is a temptation to think of motherhood like martyrdom. While true love is incredibly selfless, I pray I can remember that sometimes love looks like not being the hero or the savior. There is a temptation to think of 'love' as always being about making a way...but sometimes love is about getting out of the way. Easy & comfortable is not the goal. Moral, spiritual and physical muscle is built the same way...from work and resistance.

Lord, I pray that You will help me know when to intervene and when to lovingly coach from the sidelines. Keep my eyes focused on You, my ears attune to Your voice and my hands from meddling where You are at work!


Keri said...

What great thoughts here! I'm trying to put myself in your place during the canoe ride, and I KNOW that I would have had the same reaction you had when the kids were heading for trouble. If there's one thing I'm guilty of in my mothering, it's trying too hard -- out of my own fear and other issues -- to protect my babies from the hard stuff...which is not the right approach to take!

I need this kind of reminder FREQUENTLY. Thank you!

Win said...

I really liked this post. I want to commit that particular end prayer to memory! Thank you for your insight.