This last weekend we took our family up to Yosemite to go exploring and hiking for the day. It was a gorgeous day and just as picturesque as you can imagine. We decided to go to the highest point that we could drive to so we could look down at the waterfalls and scenery. While we were parked up there looking down from the view points at this glorious site we noticed a sign that said, “Glacier Point trail 4 miles”. Four miles isn’t that much, we thought. Let’s do it!
And off we went. The trail took you straight out to the edge of the mountain and then for a couple of miles it was a non-stop downward slope. The trail itself was only about 3 feet wide and if you tripped or looked up for a moment and stopped paying attention to the trail you’d plummet to your demise for sure.
So we walked exceptionally close to our little ones, stopping on occasion to just soak in the view that could only be seen by taking this trail. We didn’t know the trail ahead of time. We kind of hoped it was a circular trail where it’d take you back to the general vicinity of the starting point but either way we were going for it. As we ventured on I had this thought, “This is A LOT of downhill. Which is great for now, but can only mean one thing…we’re going to need to hike back up at some point.” So with each huge jump down I was picturing the strength it was going to take to climb back up.
Sure enough, two miles into it and the trail marked the “end” of this route, which meant exactly what we thought it did, turn around and hike two miles straight uphill! We rested for a bit and basked in the sun as it was nearing dusk and then stood up bracing for our ascent.
The first quarter of a mile wasn’t too bad. But then my littles started to groan and complain. “My feet are tired. This is too hard! I can’t do it anymore.” We’d let them rest for a minute and offer encouragement but then we had to go on. The sun wasn’t going to be with us too much longer and I wasn’t too keen on hiking this 2-3 foot wide trail in the dark with littles. Although when we talked about that possibility at one point my nine year old daughter beamed that she came prepared. She had brought a pen from her secret diary that had a miniature light that would bring the invisible ink to life. She was so proud that she could use that pen point of a light to illuminate the path for us. We smiled and laughed inside but didn’t dare tell her otherwise. She was too happy in the moment.
Still the two miles stretched longer and longer and each step became harder and heavier. We had to make more frequent stops for our littles. But as the sun was descending I’d walk next to the them and shared a trick I learned when I was younger and hiking big trails.
I used to go backpacking with my Dad and there were times that your legs just ache and burn because it feels just too hard but then I’d think, “what am I going to do? What are my options?” If I stopped it would only make starting that much harder so I didn’t want to do that. If I chose not to walk anymore I’d be stuck out here. The only thing I could do is just push forward. I didn’t want to think about my legs on fire so instead I’d count. I wouldn’t even count very high because I didn’t want to track how long or how far I’d come, in fear that it’d only be count ten and I’d want to quit again. So I just counted to two over and over and over again.
One and two and One and two and (if you’re a musician this will make sense to you). I was counting to two in eighth notes. One word per step. It helped. By focusing only on counting I’d make some distance and my legs weren’t screaming at me anymore. I wasn’t as tired. I could look up and enjoy the world before me because I wasn’t narrowed in on how hard the current situation was.
So my littles and I counted too. We hiked upward and onward trying not to stop as much as possible to beat the sun. We made it back while it was still light outside and they felt triumphant that they had just hiked a mountain by themselves.
There are times that we want to give up, throw in the towel, stop and say, “It’s just too hard. I can’t do this anymore.” There are times when you feel like you truly are fighting an uphill battle and there isn’t any rest in sight. There are times when you feel time is running out and you’re trying to do everything you can to beat the sun.
In these moments I want you to think about a few things, ask yourself these questions:
What are my options if I quit? Where does that leave me? What’s the upside to giving in or giving up? Am I accentuating this by dwelling on it? What else can I do?
If your teen feels like the equivalent to an uphill battle and you’re exhausted. Take a moment to pause. Get out of reaction mode. What are your options? What can YOU do? Not what you’d like THEM to do. If it were up to me the trail wouldn’t ever go uphill. It’d be flat or downhill the entire time! but I can’t change the path, not would I REALLY want to – it’s the varying depths of the trail that offered an opportunity to see and experience things that I couldn’t have any other way.
It’s the same here. You’re being offered this uphill slope because it will offer you experiences you can’t possibly have any other way. I know it hurts and you’re struggling. Don’t resist those feelings when they come. Allow yourself to feel it. Experience the FULL spectrum of emotions. If you need to get out of your head for a moment and stop focusing and dwelling on their actions then count – count only to two- breathe and count. One and two and one and two and…
When things are too hard you have options. You always have options. You CAN stop parenting altogether. It IS an option. But where will that lead you? What’s the upside of that? Why wouldn’t you want to stop?
You could absolutely give in to what your teens are doing. Good or bad all boils down to thoughts – all beliefs boil down to just long held thoughts. This is why some people believe in God and others don’t. So why do you want to hang on to YOUR beliefs? What’s the upside there?
It’s important to answer these questions. By answering these questions you’ll get your reasons for moving forward. It’ll give you strength and a positive focus much like counting did for hiking. It’ll take you from dwelling on the problem and focusing solely on the negative that it begins to physically hurt and take over your life to finding peace and purpose through your journey.
It’ll get you out of the negative and into a more positive frame of mind. This is a much better place to be in to finding solutions, peace, and being able to access love. You parent your best when you act out of love and not scarcity.
You always, always, always have options. You don’t HAVE to do anything but chances are you WANT to do things. You don’t HAVE to parent anymore if you don’t want to. There are parents out there that choose that. Remember that if you’re on this uphill journey it’s because you care, because you love them, because you want to help and encourage them. Offer them (and yourself) breaks – time to rest, reflect, rejuvenate, and get back to a healthy mindset before starting uphill again.
Find your WHY you’re doing this. Why is it a “battle” in the first place? Does it have to be a battle? Can you choose to see it as something else? Can you access love? Can you practice empathy for your teen? I love that it was once said in a Ted Talk that “Empathy does not equal endorsement.” – You can love and see them as human beings learning and making mistakes along the way and just because you choose to love them through it, it doesn’t mean you’re okay with their actions.
Empathy and love go much farther than shame and battling.
Love them. Love you.
Be willing to experience the full spectrum of emotions.
Choose where you’re going to focus your thoughts and energy to.
It’s what will make your whole world a beautiful place or a tough, hard place.
Going uphill doesn’t have to be a problem.
It’s just part of the journey.
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