Have you ever imagined something happening one way, and in reality, when it actually happens, it’s nothing like you imagined?
Well, that is exactly what happened to me last week.
Let me preface my story by telling you a little about me and my adventurous/risk-taking side. As the oldest child of three, I tend to be the cautious one. The careful one. Yes, I have many typical “first born” traits:
• Respectful of authority
• Fearful in new situations
• Dependent on others for approval
As a child, I colored in the lines, never strayed far from home, obeyed my parents, and often looked for approval from them, from my teachers, most adults. Mature at a young age (or bossy as my sisters would say) I felt it was my job to help my mother watch my younger sisters. Fast forward to college, and I was probably the only one in my dorm who didn’t skip classes or break dorm rules. Yes, of course I broke some rules (well, let’s save that for for another blog), but mostly I am someone who likes order and nothing too dangerous. Although I push myself in my career and as a mom, personally I am a little chicken to try things outside of my comfort zone. Going to an amusement park, I will take pictures of my family on the roller coaster. Hang gliding with friends? I will hold their wallets. You get it. I like to think I’m adventurous, but in a fun and controlled way.
As a mom, however, I try and push my girls to be more daring then I ever was. To color outside the lines, to express themselves, to not be afraid of the unknown. I think partly because she is the older of the two, and partly because she has a medical history since day one, my oldest is definitely my clone. She is not a risk taker. She is not someone who jumps in a pool, but rather puts her toe in first, then gradually jumps in. I am proud of her for trying new things as she gets older, but she is my cautious one. She protects herself, wears her heart on her sleeve and is very sensitive. My 9 year old is the complete opposite. She throws caution to the wind and jumps in with both feet. At 11 months she was running, at 13 months she figured out how to push the ottoman to the wall, and climb up to sit in the windowsill. Again, second child, and as a typical second child, she is more daring, more brazen, and likes to try daring things. She is the one who will give me a heart attack. She makes friends easily, plays with everyone, and truly has no fears that I know of (except for spiders). She tries every sport imaginable and often reminds me of my younger sister who did cartwheels in her first communion dress (while I looked on in shock).
Okay back to my story…
It is Friday before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and I decide since my husband and I have the day off from work, we are going to make it a family adventure day. (Okay a family adventure day AFTER chores, laundry, errands, etc.) It’s 2:43pm by the time we leave the house en route to our family adventure. I haven’t told the girls where we are going, just that I had a surprise for them. I have shared only the minimum amount of information with my husband, as well, since he is not good at keeping a secret. I told them to put on their bathing suits, shorts they didn’t mind getting wet, and plugged the address into the GPS. Off went on our adventure!
Since my girls are a little older now, I researched water tubing down the Farmington River. We have talked about it before, and I thought this would be the perfect day. After reading the website, I learned that every person is required to wear a life jacket, must be a good swimmer, and must be at least 4ft tall. Since the girls have grown up swimming, and swim on a summer team, and over 4ft tall, this would be the perfect adventure. Safe and fun, and in a roughly “controlled” environment. Oh what memories we would make! (And boy did we make memories…)
Up Route 44 we drove. Through Avon, past Canton and into New Hartford. As we neared the turnoff, I saw the sign for “Satan’s Kingdom”. Anxiety and excitement filled me. This was going to be an AWESOME day, we were going to do this daring adventure of tubing down the Farmington River. Something I had read about for years, and always thought, nope not for us. Too dangerous. Too Scary. Too much.
Once they realized what we were going to do, the emotions set it. Excitement and anxiety. Eleven asked if we could go together on one big tube since a) this was dangerous, b) we could flip over and c) we could drown. There are no “family” or large tubes, it’ only individual tubes, but I calmed her (and my) fears by telling her as long as we tubed near each other and wore a life jacket we would be safe. Nine was bouncing up and down and couldn’t wait. My hubby just gave me a sideways glance, as if to say, are you sure about this? But yes, I was sure… we were here, we are daring and we are doing it!
A nice teenager had us sign our life away, and off we went, with three simple instruction: stay in your tube, keep the life jacket on, and lift your backside when going through the rapids so as not to hit rocks. Sounded easy enough. Oh and it would take us approximately 1 ½ hours.
I had no idea the ride would be so long.
Let me begin by saying that the minute Nine put one foot in the freezing cold Farmington River, tears sprang into her eyes. “I’m scared mommy,” she said. “I don’t think I can do this.”
I was shocked. This coming from a girl who begged to go on the upside down roller coaster, picks up crabs from the beach, sings on a stage, and who once told me she is going to parachute out of an airplane when she is bigger.
“We can do this,” I assured her.
My hubby went in first, followed by Nine. They held onto each others tube and away they went. Tears streaming down her little face.
Next was me and Eleven. Testing the water and realizing that yes, it is freezing, I encouraged my daughter to come in and off we went. She was nervous, but no tears. Down we drifted towards the first set of rapids. (Here is a good time to mention the teen who gave us our instructions pointed out there was a 50/50 chance we would flip our tube as the rapids were a bit rough.) That was pretty much what Eleven focused on the rest of the trip. Flipping, and losing control. That and hitting her backside against the rocks.
What I did not realize and did not come across in all of my research was how NOT in control you are when you are in a tube in a river going downstream. Nine still in tears, my hubby trying to calm her down, Eleven in the prone position so as not to scrape her backside, and me trying to keep my legs up so I didn’t hit the freezing water. Honestly, if my teeth weren’t chattering so much it would be almost comical.
Needless to say the one and a half hour down the Farmington River was not exactly a Hallmark commercial. (My husband says I tend to think things I plan should go that way.) We eventually switched kids, and I spent the remainder of the river tubing with Nine and her tears. She kept saying she was sorry for crying. I kept telling her she absolutely 100% did not need to apologize. I was so sorry she felt sad, but I was so proud of her for trying something new and being so adventurous. After 90 minutes and two jumps into the freezing river to get our tubes unstuck we finally made it to the end of the trip, where I managed to get one smile out of her. “Great surprise” was my husband’s funny comment as we limped out onto the banks of the river.
Driving home later I asked each of my girls what was their favorite part of the Adventure Day. Nine’s response was immediate: “the end”. “Well, that and holding hands with you,” she said with a smile. Eleven stated that she was proud of herself for trying it, and that she really liked after a while, and would maybe even want to do it again.
Well, it might not have been exactly what I had in mind, but still, I’m glad we did it. We did something different. Something adventurous. We pushed ourselves past our comfort zone. I put my feet in a river where snakes were for heaven’s sake! I am proud of us. Tears and all. Would it have been better not to have done it? It may not have been a Hallmark commercial, but we still managed to do something outside of our comfort zone, and hopefully showed the girls they can do anything they set their minds to.
Next field trip, I’m going for dry land I think.