Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 “Rumours” CD has been the soundtrack of our epic summer 3,500-mile road trip this month. (I was so excited when I found the last dusty copy at a small Wal-Mart in Taos that you thought I’d hit the lottery.)
Now I know that really dates me, but one of the perks of being an Old-School Mom is that you get to pick out your favorite songs from your youth and teach your kids to sing along. Best of all, they end up loving the music so much that they don’t even know that they’re jamming to a tune that was a hit when Jimmy Carter was in office.
One of my favorite tracks from the CD is “Go Your Own Way.” Just the title alone speaks so much to me because that’s what we as moms try to do – we try to teach our kids to “Go Their Own Way.” We encourage them to have discernment and direction. We want them to follow their own path, be prepared for wherever the road may take them and to enjoy the journey ahead.
That’s one of the things that I have loved so much about taking this road trip and being in the Great Outdoors because it really has given my children (and me) a chance to not only reflect within, but also to gain resilience through challenge by choice.
We all faced several challenges at family camp recently in Colorado. Our highlights included the mountain-top ropes course which had us scaling and jumping off telephone poles (talk about a “leap of faith”). And, we had a blast physically pushing ourselves to tackle high-wire obstacles, swinging among the treetops on a giant pendulum and zip-lining over the canyons below.
My youngest even tested her nautical abilities by building a small watercraft to enter into boat race on the creek back at the campsite – and she won! These activities gave each of us opportunities to not only to stretch ourselves and encourage one another, but more importantly they offered life lessons that helped us grow individually and even made us closer as a family – especially for what lied ahead.
Later in the week, we signed up to raft a Category 3 whitewater rapid on the Upper Taylor River north of Gunnison, Colo. with a great local outfitter, Scenic River Tours. Although I’ve run tamer rapids on the Lower Taylor, as well as in Jackson Hole, Wyo., I’m just a Travel Channel enthusiast and river guide wannabe who likes to fancy herself as Meryl Streep’s character from the 1994 movie “The River Wild.”
It was a glorious day for rafting. The sun was high and the water was icy cold. After pulling on our wet suits and motoring down to the launch point we were on our way with our colorful guide “Wild Bill.” (No, I’m not making that name up. I’m convinced this guy was a rogue pirate on the high seas in another life).
Everything was smooth sailing and we were enjoying the excitement of being on the rushing water and taking in the incredible scenery around us until we unexpectedly hit a rock that tossed me, Hubby, my eldest, Wild Bill and one other passenger into the roaring river (water temp – 38 degrees). It just happened all so fast.
Wild Bill’s skill and quick thinking helped pull the raft to safety on the side. He immediately blew his whistle to signal for help. As my eldest and I struggled to get back in the raft I could feel the hand of my youngest trying her best to pull me up. That’s when I turned around and realized that Hubby had floated downstream away from the raft and the other passenger had disappeared out of sight completely.
Hubby held onto a huge rock with waters raging around him and then carefully made his way over to the shoreline while navigating through the fast-moving current. Thank God he was safe.
Wild Bill, now with his leg severely injured, quickly checked on our safety and then ran down the shoreline to make sure the missing passenger got picked up downstream. Fortunately, she too was OK and was rescued by another raft.
Although the whole incident was extremely scary, for my younger daughter it was terrifying because she witnessed the entire thing from inside of the raft. She and one of the other younger passengers were the only ones who didn’t fall into the water.
Although my youngest is usually my little daredevil, she was very upset to see her parents and her sister all struggling in the frigid waters below and her dad drifting away. She tapped out and understandably opted to return to the base camp with the other passengers who decided not to continue down the river after this harrowing experience. Hubby understood and wanted all of us to return in the van. His concerns for his family’s safety were valid and I agreed wholeheartedly. But it was just then that I noticed something.
My eldest had tears welled up in her eyes. She too was very shaken up and extremely worried about her family – but her tears weren’t from fear. These were tears of disappointment from not having the opportunity of completing this suddenly significant life challenge. She pulled me aside and whispered in my ear with a quivering voice – “Mommy, I’m not a quitter. I’m really scared, but I want to finish this. You’ve always taught me to finish what I start.” (Now folks, that just about brought me to my knees to see the anxiously worried look on her face and hearing my words coming back to me in such a blindingly, powerful way).
You guessed it. I’m back in the boat.
I’d have to explain to Hubby later why our daughter and I would continue on. I knew he would understand, but right now he wasn’t having it. Wild Bill assured us that it was OK to carry on despite his injury. Besides he still had to take the raft down river to get it to the disembarking area because we couldn’t carry the boat out of the water and up the side of the wooded slope. Wild Bill was unbelievably calm, reassuring and completely focused on the safety of his passengers. And now, he just recruited two new “Ride or Die Chicks.”
My eldest, Wild Bill and I floated on. Although we faced a few more challenging and rough water spots along the way, we were better prepared to know what to expect. That’s when I noticed the fear and hesitation on my daughter’s face gently melt into an expression of confidence and joy.
When the adventure was finally over we helped Wild Bill pull the raft out of the water, pleaded with him to get his leg checked and thanked him profusely for one unforgettable “wild ride.”
Then it hit us. We did it. We ran the rapids and we finished together – as mother and daughter.
We were both just overcome with emotion. We hugged each other so tightly and just wept. With tears streaming down my face, I told my eldest how proud I was of her for wanting to press on even though she was so scared. I shared how this proves that when you have faith and believe in yourself that you can do most anything that you put your mind to – no matter what obstacles are in your way.
It was such a beautiful moment and a growing experience that we’ll never forget. Even though I had serious doubts about continuing down the river, I know that not going on would have been a decision that we would have always regretted.
Through this experience, my eldest learned from her setbacks, navigated through challenges and overcame fears. That makes an impression on your child’s internal resolve and an imprint on her heart.
As a mom, the life lessons that my girls learned on this trip fill my heart with gratitude. I’m so thankful that as we continue to “do life” with our children, we can watch them come into their own through experiences that help them build strength, independence, character and integrity.
This will surely help them as they chose their own road and “Go Their Own Way.”
P.S. Bless you Wild Bill wherever you are.
Carla Meadows is a Oklahoma City native, wife and mother of two tweens and a loveable Golden Retriever who blogs about building intentional family moments through the wonders of travel at home and across the U.S. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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