The thing about a stupid idea is that it doesn’t appear stupid until it’s too late. You’re invested. In the middle of it. That’s why we say “Now that was a stupid idea!”
Cause it happened in the past, and we didn’t really assess it as stupid until the cost of the decision was weighed – or worse- paid.
Poor planning can lead to a bad idea set in motion, but in my case, planning carefully all morning for our first walk to a playground one mile from our new house only reinforced my commitment to it; and hence, the stupidity.
The lunches and drinks were packed. The stroller was waiting on the porch. I had mentally psyched myself up to lead my children on an unfamiliar path through an unfamiliar neighborhood to a park I thought might have a water feature to cool them off. We waited for the baby to wake from her nap so she would be fresh. And waited. Waited some more. At last I thought I heard her rustle in her crib & went in to get her. Finally we were all ready to walk out the door. Except Seth. Where is Seth? Why is Seth wearing courdorys in this heat? Where are Seth’s shoes?
We stepped out for our morning walk at 1:30 pm. I hesitated on the porch. Was this a stupid idea? It’s really hot! But is it too hot? It’s a mile away. That’s kinda far for a five year old in his brother’s flip-flops. But is it too far? We turned off of our street and found ourselves approaching a big street. With lots of cars. Is this street too big for us to cross without a crosswalk? The traffic cleared and we hustled across. I looked at my map. We were less than a third of the way there. I was sweating. The boys looked ok, but I was so nervous about getting so far away from our comfort zone. Our safety zone. The baby looked ok, wasn’t flushed. I lifted her sippy cup to her lips. I noticed (again) that there was not a single other kid outside today.
“Ok let’s go home, kids. I’m sorry, this was a stupid idea in this heat. Mommy’s sorry. It’s too much farther. We’ll do this another day.”
They both stood there, their expressions belying their ambivalence; should they simply obey me or plead with me to continue? The oldest turned his feet back toward home, but stopped to search my face.
“Well do you want to continue? You’re not too hot?”
“Yes! We want to keep going! We feel fine!”
With no evidence to the contrary, I trudged on with them, weighing the cost of my decision. Regardless of their desire to keep going, I knew if disaster struck – if someone got injured or overheated, or if this neighborhood was full of creeps – and we were defenseless & helpless a mile from home on a very hot day- that responsibility all fell on me. 100%.
I stopped one more time, again suggesting we turn back, but in the interest of brevity we plugged on and made it to the park in one piece. The boys had a delightful time running through the splash pad and over to another nearby playground. They made friends. They ate sandwiches. They laughed and screamed, the happiest I’ve seen them since our move.
I made sure all of us were drenched with water for the walk home, which really kept us cool. The baby was drinking her sippy cup & miraculously never got her characteristic overheat flush. And on the way home, so tired from the day, I finally met resistance.
“How much farther is it?” Seth whined before we’d gone a block. “It’s still far, Seth.” On the next block, he asked again. “Seth, it’s pretty far, but we still have to walk it to get home. If we try to stay cheerful, it’s not as bad, but if we whine, it feels a lot worse.” We were having a teachable moment then, I thought. If only it sunk in. Walking on, it hit me that maybe the long walk was too much for him to take in, exhausted as he was. “Do you want your water, Seth?” I asked. “That will take long” he replied, only seeing his desire to be home. He tried to walk with his head leaning awkwardly on the stroller handle.
“Why don’t you sit in the shade a minute and drink your water, Seth?”
“Look at that stop sign ahead. We’ll turn right and then we’ll be closer to the big road.”
“Is that way ‘right?'”
“Yes, Seth! Good job!”
“Look ahead! Where those cars are driving fast. That’s the big road! After we cross that, we’ll almost be home.”
“I see it, I see it Mommy!” He was almost jumping with excitement now.
Milestone by milestone, with rest between, we made the long journey home. When we neared our street, I took advantage of my captive audience and helped them memorize our new address. We said it together, over and over, almost chanting it step by step until we finally saw our beloved street sign.
Back at home, we celebrated our victorious trek to our new neighborhood playground and back. Tired, but happy, I poured a nice big icy drink for all of us, and it tasted like winning. Yes, we were proud of ourselves for accomplishing something that seemed so hard.
In the end, I moved against my fears and it paid off. The risks I felt seemed more real in my new and unfamiliar surroundings, but when I faced them head-on, they seemed instantly smaller. Manageable. Not scary. Now I feel like I can take the kids to the park. I know the way, and I might make a point to head out a little earlier next time – but still, what felt like a stupid idea turned out to be an opportunity for victory! We overcame some uncomfortable feelings about the neighborhood and its layout, realized that a five-year-old really can walk that distance in his brother’s flip-flops, and had some truly meaningful moments along the way, working through the challenges of the path. Maybe “stupid” ideas are opportunities sometimes – to stretch and grow and bond in ways that otherwise might never happen.