From Tears to Resolute

This weekend I went with my son and the local scout troop on a winter camp out. Living in Utah, this camp out was destined to include some cold, some sledding, and lots of snow. We had been talking about this camp out for several weeks, so when the day finally arrived, I figured we would be ready. With duffles packed and a quick kiss to mom for a goodbye, we were off.

Not everyone enjoys camping. My youngest son is one who doesn’t enjoy the experience as much as I do, particularly if the weather is less than perfect. This night was one of those. It was a little breezy, and wind is my son’s kryptonite. As soon as we arrived at the drop off point and started to prepare for the 3 mile hike to the cabin we would spend the night at, his pleas began. “Take me home! Don’t make me do this! Call someone to get me!”. And with these pleas, real tears of sadness flowed down his cheeks.

I tried to help him understand that the wind comes and goes, that it never blows for long, and that most of the time moving a little way along the trail puts us in a place where we won’t feel the breeze, that helped a little, but not much. His progress was still slow, and his pleas to take him home continued.

At one point, about halfway through the hike, he asked me if I would have taken him home if I had been one of the leaders who drove. When I told him, “No,” I thought my heart would break, as new tears welled up in his eyes. He asked why we were out there, and I told him that these experiences were part of moving from boy to man, that we learned lessons out in nature, away from the distractions of civilization, that can’t be learned anywhere else. He didn’t seem pleased with the answer, but after a short rest he began to trudge on.

When the journey was nearly through and the breeze had almost completely disappeared, he told me that he couldn’t cry anymore, that his tears were all gone. When I said, “I’m glad! Now you can move past the tears,” I could see confusion in his eyes.

I told him of a time, also on a scout camp out, that I had cried and wanted to be allowed to bail on the experience. I told him how I had cried until the tears dried up. And I told him that when the tears were done, I was no further along to solving my problem. That was where I discovered the power of resolve.

I told him that resolve is what gets us to take action when we know we are in a situation that we are not pleased with and we know we have to take action but we wish we didn’t have to. We talked about it for a while, and then we were at the cabin. And he was fine.

As a man of substance, we must become familiar with resolve. Resolve is what allows us to keep going when things look grim and help seems a long way away. Resolve is what handles a job loss with grace, even when the awfully uncomfortable work of finding a new job looms ominously. Resolve is what allows us to stick to principles when it would be easy to abandon them for temporary gain. Resolve is part of what keeps us grounded to the nobility of being a faithful husband and father when the reality of daily life and its minutiae crowd into the mind.

My son and I wound up having a wonderful trip. He told me on the way back to the cars, after several hours of sledding in beautiful mountains under bright sunshine in a vibrant blue sky, that he was glad that I had not given in to his request to take him home. He was glad that he had been able to turn a difficult start into a good experience. I told him that I was glad too, especially because he has started learning the power that comes when we move from tears to resolute.

Taking A Vacation

I was recently reading some articles from Men’s magazines about vacations. Catchy titles like, “The Top Ten Bed and Breakfasts to See in New England,” were par for the course. And I must admit, as I scanned through them, I was a little irritated. All of them seemed to follow two rules. . . 1 – promote a vacation that will look good compared to other’s vacations on Facebook and 2 – Make sure that we can get some click through revenue from the locations being highlighted. I’m sure this is a gross oversimplification, but it certainly seemed to hit the mark.

In response to this, and in keeping to my self imposed mandate to speak to every day dads, I want to offer my top three suggestions for making any vacation with your family better.

1 – Have a (flexible) plan.

On our most recent vacation, a car-camping family reunion at a state park in Utah, we started with a plan that had three points in it. First, leave before noon on Thursday, so we could have dinner and play games. Second, swimming on Friday is a must, along with more games. Third, leave on Saturday after breakfast. Beyond that, nothing was planned. Oh, we talked about running, what types of games we might play, what to have for dinner, who would be sleeping where and the like, but nothing more was planned. That left us free to decide activities on the fly, adjust for contingencies (like weather and tiredness and children’s level of peevishness) and to take advantage of opportunities that just showed up. All in all, for me, this was hard. I’m a planner. I like to have a plan, to inform others of the plan, to require compliance with the plan. . . and that always made things difficult. This time, with the simple yet flexible plan, things went much smoother and more pleasantly.

2 – Declare an electronics moratorium

I’m not suggesting that kindles and phones and GPS devices of all nature be abandoned completely. I am suggesting that during a vacation, especially one where all members of the family are present, the role of the electronics might be up for discussion. In our case, reading was allowed only in books (not ebooks) and texting was limited to the check in at night with the older children who had to stay home because of work. We were available to them, We kept our phones handy, but allowed them to initiate communication, for the most part.

GPS units can be valuable assets for Geocaching and other back-country activities, and being able to stay in touch between several vehicles driving along the road is a cool idea, but allowing vacation time to be absorbed in mundane electronic updating defeats much of the intended rejuvenation value of a vacation.

Besides, it’s tough to have a really good water-fight if you are worried about your iPhone.

3 – Don’t disengage too much

I admit, I like having a little time alone. Vacations can be a time to rethink values, goals and directions, and that is solitary stuff. but if you are on vacation with the family, make sure the family stays the focus of the vacation. If you need some serious time for the weightier matters of life, take a personal day, and do that. But if you are trying to connect with your family, make sure you are immersed in the time with them. A little time for a solitary walk is okay, but allow the little ones or the wife to come along. Some time for a nap is great, but if all you do is sleep, the vacation is likely not going to be remembered as a “fun time was had by all,” event.

Do what you need to to truly rejuvenate on a vacation, long or short, but I humbly suggest you keep these three suggestions in mind!

Happy Vacationing!