the hard fun

A few weekends ago all four of us got bundled up, laced up our sneaks and headed to a local 5K. All of us run, well almost all of us. One of us doesn’t like to sweat. Or exert effort. Or clean her room. But the last time we left her behind she cried and said she wanted to run too, only because she hates nothing more than being left out.

Race day she was nervous and took a some convincing. She started out strong and started to fade only about two minutes in. I let her take quick breaks then told her to keep running. I passed a few people we knew and felt sorry for her dramatic panting and whining and offered to let her walk with them.  I quickly declined before she grabbed on to their legs and refused to let go.  She was going to run this race wether she wanted to or not. We finished the first mile with lots of sprinting, then walking, attempts at giving up and even a short stretch with me running while she was on my back. I know that lots of people think that running is punishment and not fun. 
But I disagree and have plenty of hardware on my wall to prove it.

I kept trying to encourage my daughter. Give her the right amount of praise, push and to sell this whole event as a good time.  She was not buying, despite taking her picture with the mascot, petting lots of dogs and getting her face painted. I asked her, “Isn’t this fun??” and with the honesty only a small child or a drunk adult can give she said very quickly, “This is not fun! It is hard!”
And I replied that the fact that it was hard was one of the very things that made it fun.
Completing something that is a struggle is rewarding. Especially when someone gives you a cup of gatorade and puts a medal around your neck afterwards. She said she preferred the kind of fun that involved ice cream, barbie dolls and minimal effort. Fun is supposed to be easy she told me.  I shook my head and hoped she would learn sooner rather than later that usually the exact opposite of that is true.

I like to make new friends. I have some great ones but am always a fan of getting to know new people and new perspectives. Sometimes when you get to know someone new they seem so much easier than the old ones you have programmed in your phone. You have no history with them. You have never had to apologize. They haven’t seen you at your worst. They haven’t heard all your best jokes and stories twice. Sometimes new is easy. Just because it is new. My oldest friends are occasionally difficult. There are busy calendars to navigate and they see straight through my cover ups and bad decisions and totally call me on it. So more than once, I have told someone new in my life how glad I am that they are easy. That other people in my life feel like work and they don’t and how refreshing that is. It took me awhile to figure it out but I finally stopped giving that same misdirected speech a few years ago…because I learned that the easy people in your life are never there when things get hard.

We spent the first part of our Spring Break in the mountains with three other families. And guess what living and planning with 16 people is hard. Sharing a bathroom, choosing a meal, attempting to sleep in and trying to get your homework done with a crowd is hard. Guess what isn’t hard -laughing until your stomach hurts, throwing snowballs off the balcony and sipping wine while you sit in front  of the fire.
Like running, community and friendship can be work. 
No one will put a medal around your neck for it, but the people you build it with are often the ones who will save yours.

Tess, is finally learning the lesson.
On our trip she was all about playing in the snow, having a pseudo little sister to boss around and tell the same knock knock joke to 247 times to — but like running she had zero interest in hitting the ski slopes. Owen and his dad could shut down the mountain each day but Tess was content to watch movies and eat fruit snacks by the fire.  On our last day, however, we suited her up and headed up the mountain. She was petrified. I was a little scared as well because it has been over a decade since I have skied, but hate missing out more than I care about my knees making it until I am 80.

Me and Owen took off while my husband carried Tess up and down the mountain at least a dozen times.  Ski school was full, I was on the “green team” in college…meaning of the two of us —he was the only one qualified to given any kind of instruction.  And Tess, takes to being told how to do something about like me…which is terribly. There are times I am reminded of how much I love my husband. It is usually moments where he starts my car on cold mornings or attempts to get my order right at Starbucks. My husband is not usually long in patience, but my heart swelled each time I saw him carry that pink ski jacket (with my six year old intact) a little higher up the slopes.  Me and O would see them at the base after a run and I’d go check on them mostly to see Tess face down and skis all askew.  She did not look happy but was still getting up.  “Pizza” he kept telling her while me and Owen worked on our “french fries” (wedge vs straight skis for those of you that don’t speak mountain).  We met for lunch and Tess broke down into huge tears when she realized that she would have to go back out there after she finished her chicken strips. I had promised to take her home when she was done and let the boys get a few harder runs in….but I wasn’t willing to call it quits yet. Shaun somehow bribed her to get back on the lift while me and Owen took the express all the way to the top. Some kind of miracle occurred while I took one more run and bargained with the orthopedic gods on wether or not I tear something else in my knees on our way down the mountain.  All of  Shaun’s patient work somehow payed off. She went up and down the bunny slope over and over getting faster and more independent each time. I watched her go down the mountain on her own a few times making it further and further each time before eating snow, beaming the entire time.  On the drive back to the house, she kept saying how much fun that she had skiing. 
That it was  really hard, but really fun.
And could she go back tomorrow because it had been so much “hard fun.”

There will be no more lift rides until next season.
But the hard fun, I hope she learns to have that every season.
Especially with hard fun people.