If you have ever wondered if your kids could do this type of trip, don’t worry as they will be just fine. Kids are resilient. Really resilient.
re·sil·ient (rəˈzilyənt), adjective
Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
“babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize”
synonyms: strong, tough, hardy
This first hit me as we pushed Decker beyond his comfort zone only 25 days in. We were neck deep in water. If not for the life vest, he would have been over his head, literally and figuratively. We trudged through the cold, dark water-filled cave while I carried a candle to light the way.
Decker was clearly uncomfortable at the beginning and I could tell he would rather be almost anywhere but this cave. However, he maintained his composure and powered through. After climbing up a waterfall and reaching the halfway point, he realized his accomplishment and started to smile – from ear to ear. An hour later when we exited into the sunlight and safety of dry land, Audrey and I looked at him and said how proud we were of what he just did. He responded with a laugh and a smile, “It’s not like I had any choice.” He was somewhat serious and mostly correct.
Sometimes the kids do not get a choice. Sometimes they do. If it were up to them they would stay in the hotel and play Minecraft all day. In fact, he did not even want to leave Pleasanton and travel around the world. So when they say “No,” we try to understand why and assess if they are scared or if they just don’t want to do something. If scared we further assess how far we should push and the risks and ramifications of failure. Failure can be good at times but I do not want them scarred for life.
Finishing something you did not think you could is a great confidence builder. Or as a good friend once said, “There is nothing more rewarding than accomplishing something you were too stupid to start in the first place.” He said this shortly after we both ran our first 50 miler. How right he was.
Several years ago while vacationing in Honduras, Decker didn’t want to parasail. We encouraged him but he stood firm. Audrey, Colin and I glided above while he stayed in the boat. Recently I asked if he would parasail and he nonchalantly said, “Yeah!!” as if it was a stupid question.
The kids have learned to deal with constantly changing and often challenging environments. They have also learned to deal with difficult situations. Now when problems occur — and they do all the time — the kids just laugh and power through.
When the motor in our boat burnt up on the Nile and we stopped mid river, no problem. When we got a flat tire in the middle of Namibia, no problem. When we got another flat tire within ten feet of a lion, no problem. When our starter didn’t work on Safari in Botswana, no problem. When our train never showed up leaving us stranded in Zimbabwe, no problem. When our train was delayed because of massive sandstorms getting us into Cairo past midnight, no problem. When our bus left us at the border of Peru & Bolivia while Decker was throwing up in two countries almost simultaneously, no problem. O.K., that was a bit of a problem but we laugh about it now. He is proud of his Bolivian visa picture which reminds me of Nick Nolte’s mugshot after a long night of partying.
Shit happens but the kids have demonstrated a resiliency more than I anticipated. On a six-hour drive through Uganda, Colin was suffering from a stomach bug and diarrhea was causing us to stop on the side of the road ever hour or two. Having the Hershey Squirts in the middle of Africa on a blistering hot day with only the side of the road sucks. Some people think it’s funny, but it’s really…. Well, you know the rest. He later told Audrey, “Mom, that’s the worst I ever felt.” We both felt for the poor guy and did our best to comfort him. He was pooped.
Both kids have been sick but have recovered. Both kids have been uncomfortable but have survived. Both kids have said “No” to some crazy adventure but powered through. And, they were glad we encouraged them.
There is no doubt they will come out of this year feeling more confident and prepared to handle the challenges life will throw at them. They will also likely be more adventurous and stretch themselves both physically and mentally. As a parent it thrills me to see my kids push themselves, reach new boundaries and try new adventures. It also scares the hell out of me as they go further beyond our protective bubble. But then, isn’t that our job as parents?