The book I’m reading by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay suggests that kids should spend 4-5 hours a day outside. I don’t think she ever came to Central Texas in the summertime, but she did live in the Swiss Alps, and those can’t be a picnic in the winter. Four to five hours? That seems like a long time to me, and I thought I was pretty good at getting my kids out of the house. Furthermore, I was wondering when she got any work done if she was taking the kids out on four hour hikes every day. Still, if they are out of the house they can’t mess it up. We may be on to something here.
I have actually been attempting to get the kids out an about. We’ve been going to the lake a lot this fall. The Woodway park is just a mile from our house. We take the nature trail hike and then hit the playground for a while before heading over to the water to let the dog have a run, a splash and a roll in the dead fish by the shore. Sometimes we head to the upper playground to let the kids ride their bikes and let the dog run free. Today, for some reason, I decided to have the kids ride their bikes on the nature trail. This was not without precident. A couple of days ago, Chris took Brendan, a friend and Steffi on their bikes through the trail while I took the dog and everyone else. That adventure seemed to go well; so, jauntily I loaded up all the bikes this time, thinking we could just expand upon a previous success.
I was forgetting that Mollie is still using training wheels and that the path had a lot of ups and downs, some of which are precariously close to the creek. Moreover, Sophie and Steffi are still beginning riders. Furthermore, I was not considering how difficult it might be to hold on to a frantically excited dog while helping small children on bikes up a trail. It was, actually, a recipe for disaster.
However, it was not a disaster. It was even rather fun, in spite of the fact that I frequently had to help three bikes up and down sections of the trail and Steffi did sustain one rather bad fall that left her with a scraped chin and small hole in her cheek (with a very few, but poignant tears as well–she’s a tough kid).
What made this an adventure rather than a disaster was the attitude of the kids. They just kept on trying. Especially Mollie, and this is a very important thing because Mollie is our family member most vulnerable to failure and giving up. This time she didn’t. No pouting, no whining, no crossing her arms in a huff. Just a cheerful, “I think I need help mom, ” or, “I think I can do it now.”
Why did this outing go better than it should have? Maybe it was just a bit of grace on a tired mom. Maybe it was because fresh air does work. Maybe it was because I’d spent most of the morning playing board games with the kids rather than doing housework or cooking. Or maybe it is because my kids really do want to try and succeed. They do want a chance to be challenged to go further than I think they can, to stretch their endurance at showing the fruits of the spirit in a difficult situation. I know in the middle of the walk when I finally realized how many ups and downs were ahead I had to suppress my natural dismay and choose to be joyful, contented and peaceful.
So maybe it isn’t so bad to have tough days. To have hard situations. To be bored and have to figure out what to do. Those rough moments stretch our spirits and drive us to deeper levels of self-control and self-discipline. I’m reminded of the passage in 2nd Peter 1:4-8. He says that we are “partakers of the divine nature” and for that reason should apply “all diligence” to pursuing “moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful…”
I want to be useful and fruitful. I don’t want to grow up to be a withered old vine. So I want to try to look out at the road ahead of me and see adventure rather than disaster, challenge rather than stress, and opportunity rather than discomfort. I’ll let you know how our next 4 hours of fresh air goes!