Happy campers

Originally Appeared in : 9902-1/17/19
We headed out on a family hike last week, eager to get in some sunshine after weeks of relentless rain. It had been several very lazy weeks of Christmas break, and while I’m all for relaxing and resting up, it was starting to feel like the days of being cooped up in the house would never end.
As you might imagine, some folks do a lot better with the sedentary lifestyle. They seem to embrace “lazy days” and start to act like perhaps it’s their new career. Not everyone enjoys spending day after day after day binge-watching Netflix because they can’t go outside, but some of my children really do. 
So the sun came out ,and it was time to get everyone up and moving. Paul and I announced to the rest of the family, including our college boys, that we were loading up and heading out. Everyone was strongly encouraged to come with us. We gave advance warning and plenty of notice and when the time came to actually get moving, we had a few that just weren’t feeling it.
One son in particular has decided that he wants to pursue a career as a professional basketball player. This life goal conveniently pops up anytime something else is on the agenda that he would rather not do. Homework? I gotta shoot hoops. Put away your laundry? I need to practice. A few days ago when I told him it was time to get ready for swim team, he headed towards his bathing suit crying, “I just want to play professional basketball.” It was very sad.
So on this particular day we found him once again trying to use his hoop dreams as an excuse to not do what he needed to do. He needed to load up the van to head out with the family. It’s what we are doing today.
Around that same time another son starting having some attitude. His plans were a little less lofty. He just wanted to keep lying in bed.
So here we were, the first gorgeous weather day in forever and my happy outlook of time in nature was getting doused by having to fight these attitudes. It was driving me nuts.
“Forget it,” I finally declared after someone huffed and puffed a little too much. I just couldn’t take it. All I wanted was for us to have a beautifully perfect time out in nature being perfectly happy together. Was that too much to ask?
Apparently so.
I continued on my little martyr streak of telling people to just forget the hike, we’re not going, why can’t people just be happy and do what I say, until Paul, my dear sweet, wise husband, intervened. He was kind enough to just ignore me and tell those boys to get over it and get in the van. We are heading out and you are coming with us. You need to, it’s time to leave the house for a while, and we are all going to survive.
We pulled out of the driveway, me still sort of pouting or something (I can’t remember but I know I wasn’t happy) and those two boys unhappy as well. We drove over to our hiking spot and got out and got settled and off we went.
And then, as often happens when you get in fresh air and sunshine and spread out on the trail and spot some snakes and drink in the view — well, we all just calmed down. We forgot what we were mad about, and we started getting our blood pumping. We had conversations while we hiked, and we laughed and talked and an hour later we arrived back at the van totally different people.
“I am so glad,” I told Paul later that day, “that you didn’t let me cancel things.” I wanted to call the whole thing off because a few people weren’t acting exactly how I wanted them to act. But instead of letting my bad attitude about their bad attitudes ruin the day, we just pushed through. It was messy for a few minutes there and then, well, it wasn’t. It got less messy, and then it got great. All because I calmed down and pushed through and let it go.
It’s always such a fine line in parenting and family life, navigating when to ignore behavior and when to address it. When to expect and demand change and when to say “that attitude stinks but this too shall pass.” On our hike that day, we ignored the bad attitudes but we also didn’t let them control us. “Sorry you don’t want to do this, but here we go.”
And isn’t that just life. Sometimes we do what we gotta do with tons of glorious grace. And sometimes it’s clunky and ugly, and we still get the job done. And when we look up from the other side of things, we see we’ve changed. 
God can work with us both ways.
Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at
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