As anyone with kids knows, a family outing of any sort has, at best, a 50/50 shot at success. It might be a magical time that becomes a cherished family memory, or it might devolve into something more like a late 90’s episode of Jerry Springer where people scream, throw chairs at each other, and run crying from the room.
On our way to the beach this last time we rolled the dice and planned a side-trip to Asheville to visit some waterfalls. The plan was get to town Friday night, see falls on Saturday morning, then head for the coast. Easy peasy.
Except, we left an hour later than planned and ended up hitting evening rush hour in one major city, then an accident in another. We arrived at the hotel after one a.m., four and a half hours later than planned, fell into bed, and slept through until after nine the next morning.
This put us behind schedule. We missed breakfast. A couple members of our family REALLY like to be on a schedule, and a particular member of our family REALLY likes her breakfast. It was a rough start. We floundered. Ended up with a yucky fast-food breakfast no one wanted. Then, what to do?
We were meeting friends at the beach, and there was much work to be done there. The basics of any rental house arrival; unloading, unpacking, the mandatory (hellish) grocery trip, all of it, and we were five hours away plus a few hours behind.
My dear hubby didn’t love the idea of getting there even later than planned. The kids were grouchy and whining to just get to the beach so they could be sure to get top bunks. I didn’t want to miss a chance to see the waterfalls so we could stick to a schedule when we were supposed to be on vacation. But, I also didn’t want to Clark Griswold everyone else into misery for something only I seemed to care about.
We were a mess.
Also, there was a tiny bit of uncertainty about where exactly the waterfalls were, which may or may not have been my fault since, technically, I “planned” the entire waterfall excursion. I’m more of a we’ll figure it out as we go kinda person, and I “planned” to nail down the actual directions that morning at the hotel before breakfast, which we all happened to sleep through, etc., etc., so.
Anyhoo. No need to point fingers. I had some printouts from the website, a map, and my phone loaded with Google Maps. It was fine.
Dear, sweet hubby refused to call this a “plan,” but we agreed to wing it and try anyway. Mostly because we drove several hours out of the way to see waterfalls and it seemed too ridiculous to leave without seeing at least one for a minute or two.
Another reason we went for it is because a big goal for us is to teach the kids perspective. Right now, our lives are not hard. We have food and our health and a peaceful home and each other. These little inconveniences are nothing to get upset (or stay upset) over. It’s life. You have to roll with it most of the time, especially the small stuff, like this. It may stink. It may hurt. That’s fine. Let the initial emotions flow, then get over it. Make a plan, make the best of it, and move on. Make the lemonade.
We confirmed a later arrival time and an official top bunk rotation with our friends, so the kids got on board, then we headed to Pisgah National Forest because it looked closest on the map and we’d heard some great things about the falls there. We figured we’d see the quick-and-easys, then start for the coast.
I navigated. That is, frantically fumbled with the printouts and map and stared helplessly every minute or so at the NO SIGNAL indicator on my phone. Dear, sweet hubby drove and smiled and in spite of it all, was generally the best sport. Really. He was.
I know the whole scene made his skin crawl, arriving later at the beach, the no official plan, but he went with it and chose to have a good attitude, and I know this was a big part of what turned the day around for us.
The moment we got to Pisgah we knew we’d done the right thing. Driving slow, under the leaf canopy with the windows down and the river sparkling and running along beside us, darting in and out of the trees. It was so beautiful the trip felt worth it before we saw the first waterfall.
We grabbed some basic info from the ranger station and planned a quick route to a couple of the more popular falls. First, to Looking Glass, then on to the natural water slide, Sliding Rock.
The “plan” was to look, snap a few pics, and head out, but once you see these beauties, you realize if you have a chance to stand, small and human, at the base of waterfall and listen to it roar, feel the mist hit your face, the slip and scrape of the wet rocks under your feet, you have to wade in and take your time and take it in.
And, if you have the chance to go down a natural water slide in the middle of a river that’s stayed its course for more years than you can really fathom, you can’t pass it up. You just can’t.
What if, despite our best intentions, we were never all there together again, the four of us, our little family. How would we ever explain to ourselves why we didn’t go when we had the chance?
So, we all went a time or two and it was awesome, exhilarating, a maybe, probably, once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was a fine moment for our family. A fine day.
We changed our attitudes, gave each other a break, gave the day a chance, and this time it all worked out. It turned out to be one of those days a parent dreams of, the sort of day you can point at to reinforce the things you say all the time.
Nothing is ever perfect. Keep things in perspective. Make the most of what you get dealt, especially when things go wrong. It’s worth it to try. To learn to choose happiness every chance you get. To not let negative thoughts take root in your mind. To not let negative behaviors become habit, or God forbid, a way of life.
I pray that waterfall day settled deep in my kids’ heads somewhere. Maybe in place of, oh, say, one of my adult-temper tantrums. And I pray they remember the rough start that got us there.
I get this isn’t for everyone. Some of the people who love us most roll their eyes when we talk like this. Some people think we’ve obviously never had to deal with something REALLY tough or tragic, that if we had, we’d know better, and maybe they’re right. Maybe when we have to face something truly devastating, we’ll lose our Pollyanna tune, but I hope not. I hope all this practice will pay off, that in tougher times we’ll weep and mourn and flail as much as the next person, but when the worst has passed, I hope we’ll be able to move forward in some new kind of faith and hope, and maybe even joy.
And believe me, not every day turns out like this one. Not even close. We churn into family dysfunction as often as not. On those days, there is no lemonade to speak of. It’s more like beating each other with lemons and/or the shoving of lemons down each other’s throats, Springer-style.
But not this day. The waterfall day was a win and we celebrate it.
If you get a chance, go check out the waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest, or the whole Asheville area. Here’s a link to more info if you’re interested. –> http://www.romanticasheville.com/waterfalls.htm
If you’ve already visited Pisgah (or other great forests/waterfall sites), tell us about it in the comments. The trip and/or the awesome family dysfunction. I’d love to hear about either/both.