When my oldest was not even a year old, my husband and I decided it would be a great idea to do a little biking tour of Oregon wineries (we lived in Portland at the time), WITH our 11-month-old. We had just gotten a Burley bike trailer, you see, and we were eager to put it to use. We booked a kid-friendly B&B, mapped out a good route, and away we went.
I know it wasn't all easy and good. I know the route had big hills and narrow shoulders and speeding semi-trucks. I know that Aleida cried...a lot. I know that I wasn't in the best shape and arrived at the wineries sweaty and out of breath. But all I remember, 8 years later, is the fun and the fact that we did it. We tell the story about biking up a big hill with a crying child and we laugh. We recall the looks from the other wine tasters, some admiring, others judging, and we revel in our adventurousness. "Aleida wasn't even a year old!" we say. "We took a crawling baby on a winery bike tour in Oregon!" we laugh.
This probably wasn't the first time, but it stands out in my memory as one of the important moments when I realized that we would be this couple, and now this family. We are a high effort family. When our kids were 3 and 5, we took a trip with another family (who had 2 kids, also under 5) to Nicaragua. Even the flight attendant questioned our choice: "You're taking a family vacation to Nicaragua?"
Two summers ago, when my kids were 6 and 8, we hiked our first 14er and went on our first backpacking trip, which prompted Aleida to say, "Summer break is hard in a family like ours." And she's right: it IS hard.
Just this weekend, my husband said, "You've gotta love effort, and I do love effort." I can't even remember what we were talking about because we literally had half a dozen scenarios he could've been referring to--just in the past week. We went snowshoeing and sledding in deep snow on Black Friday (a new tradition we are calling "White Friday), and yesterday we drove 1.5 hours to go cut down our own Christmas Tree. We are a high effort family. Admittedly, my husband is the leader. I often roll my eyes or get heart palpitations when he conjures up a new undertaking, but ultimately, I am grateful for it. I am less effort-averse than I use to be, and I know my kids--who whine and complain and cry like all other kids--are learning to appreciate the pay off if worth their exertions.
Still, I am sometimes self-conscious about the level of effort we put out there. To be fair, we live in an abnormally active town, full of sponsored mountain bikers and ultra marathoners, and we are surrounded by like-minded families who take their kids skiing at age two and plan camping trips and adventure vacations. But outside of our little snow globe of high effort, I know that some people think we are crazy. And maybe we are...but here's the thing about effort:
Effort is the main ingredient when making the best memories. Effort creates the best stories. Effort is behind all the hilarious fails and spectacular successes and amazing discoveries and awesome inventions. Without effort, you cannot see what you are really made of. Without effort, you cannot feel proud of yourself. Effort means learning and progress and improvement.
I sometimes joke that I do things just so that I can say I did them. And while I'm all for enjoying the process, I'm also a big fan of looking back and telling the stories. And because of this motivation to have good stories, I have learned to appreciate and savor the effort. No pain, no gain, right? Likewise, no effort, no stories. So the next time you find yourself thinking, "That's a lot of effort," I encourage you to reframe it to..."Just think of the stories!"
We are a high effort family, but boy, do we have stories.