After dinner a few weeks ago I went on a bike ride with my two boys. It was hot. As in at least 100 degrees hot. The fact that Tanner was profusely sweating inspired him to analyze his little predicament.
“Downhill is awesome. Even going straight is okay. Uphill sucks.”
I inwardly giggled to myself. Such is life, buddy.
Then he said something so profound that I did a double take in his direction. He’s six. His mind can’t wrap itself around the complexities of life just yet, but somewhere in his sweet, logical soul he gets it.
We were headed up a hill and it was getting less pleasant by the minute. And no, I am not a heartless beast. It wasn’t that steep of a hill, but it sure felt like it in that moment. Hunter, who is a few months shy of his eighth birthday, was downright sick of it.
“Let’s stop and take a break.”
“Just go really slow, Hunter. Even if you’re barely moving at least you’re getting closer to the end.”
He should probably write fortunes for Chinese restaurants. Or sell inspirational calendars. Or be some sort of endurance poster child.
My darling boy had no idea that he’d hit one of the secrets to life right on the head.
Life is a funny thing. The biggest secrets are so simple and yet sometimes so difficult to learn. Tanner’s declaration was common sense. Of course you’re getting closer even if all you can manage to do is inch along. Duh.
And yet, so often we plop down in despair right in the middle of the road, the sun beating down our backs, hoping against all logic that we’ll magically transport to our final destination.
I don’t know what makes us think that this tactic works. It so obviously doesn’t. But I’m not going to deny that even I’ve found myself collapsed and unmoving while simultaneously hoping for a change of scenery.
Life is work. There is no way around it. And sometimes it seems that the harder we work, the slower we move. It’s frustrating.
My life revolves around parenting. And most days it really does seem like the more effort that’s required is representative of the absolute least amount of progress. My vision is limited to what’s physically happening on the outside.
I’m one of Poison Control’s regular callers. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. And my son, Tanner, has a file. Another thing I wish weren’t true, but cannot be denied.
“Hold on, he actually drank half a bottle of foaming hand soap!? Not just a pump or two!?”, the worker probed.
“Nope. Half a bottle. Next time I probably shouldn’t buy the cranberry scented kind, huh?”
In my defense, she laughed, but still.
They told me he’d probably just be really thirsty. He was most definitely thirsty. Kyle found him outside 30 minutes later using his mini sandbox shovel to spoon dirty, SOAPY water out of the bucket that he had been using to wash his Jeep. He was pouring it down his throat.
“Tanner! What are you doing!?”
“I’m really thirsty!”
“Well, go inside and use a cup! And clean water!”
I had mistakenly assumed that the attempt to suck the Comet out of the sponge in the bathtub, the bloody nose causing spray of mosquito repellent up the nose, and the diaper rash cream eating incident would have been enough to deter him. But they weren’t. The work continued. I just could not make this child understand that we eat food and not chemicals. I felt like I was beating my head into a wall and accomplishing nothing except securing my next headache.
But let me tell you all of the things that are happening that I don’t see.
Maybe Tanner hasn’t learned yet. Maybe I’ll find him in a corner chewing on a dryer sheet. Maybe the learning curve is far from steep. But that line is still curved and a dryer sheet is better than a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I think. I should probably check with Poison Control on that.
But my point is, he’ll learn. He is learning. Regardless of how much it seems like he isn’t.
And I’m learning. Even if I can’t see that with my eyes. Our capacity to endure increases as we continue to work. Your leg muscles might burn as you slowly and deliberately climb those hills, but that pain is indicative of growth. Nothing at all is happening on the downhill. Remember that.
So the next time your preschooler tells you you’re ridiculous or your son stuffs a marble up his nose or your daughter refuses to sleep through the night, remember that it’s not a sign of failure. It’s a sign that right now life is hard and you’re being strengthened for something much greater. Hang on tight and keep pedaling.