We went to the mountains to disconnect and reconnect. We went to getaway before the school year starts and the busy fall schedule begins. We went to breath in the fresh air. I had big plans for this trip. I had visions of days filled with hiking and evenings spent by the fire roasting marshmallows. We would all come home feeling united as a family and fully refreshed. But that isn’t how family vacations go. Family vacations (at least our family vacations) have a way of magnifying every area of weakness and every area we neglected this past year.
The weekend was punctuated by Chet’s meltdowns. Welcome to 3. Bedtime was a disaster (same as at home). Getting him to eat was a disaster (same as at home). Getting him to not run off the side of a mountain wasn’t a disaster (fortunately), but it did result in a temper tantrum somewhere between the top of the mountain and the trail head.
While we climbed that mountain, I worried Cole wasn’t having fun. I was afraid Christian would want to spend the rest of the weekend alone. I worried other hikers would judge us based on the level of noise we brought with us. I just wanted everyone to get along, so I intervened, I reacted, and I lost my patience. I walked a half mile back to the trailhead while everyone told me to come back. I was ready to pack up cabin and head back to the beach.
“The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens. ~Brene Brown
After some persuading, I turned back around to finish our climb. When we finally made it to the top, two miles and 1500 feet later, we all started to head back down. But wait! We made it! Let’s enjoy it!
We took off our packs. We sat on a rock. We enjoyed the view. Christian and I let out a collective sigh that we managed to keep both kids alive on the climb up. The view of the mountains eased the tension in my shoulders. We made it.
I wish I could say I absorbed the lesson I learned on the mountain that day. I wish I could say the rest of the vacation was exactly as I had envisioned. But Chet still had meltdowns, bedtime was still hard, and meals didn’t go as planned. But a whole lot of good happened over the past four days. Cole and Christian kayaked. The boys caught fish. I ran a mountain! Christian biked a mountain. A hammock, a few sticks and a firepit provides hours of entertainment. The boys played along the shore of the lake. Alex got his fill of sniffing and marking trees. Smores were enjoyed.
After Cole finished kayaking around the lake, I turned him around and told him to look at the mountains. You climbed to the top of that! He’s eyes got big. He took pride in his sore muscles. He responded by saying I climbed all the way up there. It put the weekend in perspective.
We went to the mountains to disconnect and reconnect as a family. It wasn’t picture perfect. It was real life. While I thought I’d come home feeling relaxed and inspired, I’m not. Instead I’m coming home with a renewed energy to invest in myself and my family. I’m coming home with a new appreciation for what it looks like and feels like to live life in the middle moments. I’m coming home with perspective.
Right now we are all living in the middle moment of life. Cole is heading off to middle school. Chet is navigating the middle of toddler development. Christian and I are in the middle phase of life. The middle is hard. It’s past the excitement of new, yet the finish line seems so far away. There are days I wonder what in the world I got myself into. There are days I want to rewind and try again. But we keep going. We keep climbing. Because in the middle of all this hard, something magical is happening. We are getting stronger. We are become united. We are becoming a polished version of ourselves.
As we walked in the front door after our five hour car ride home, Chet announced I’m so glad we went on vacation. I can’t believe I climbed that mountain.
Me too buddy! Me too!