Life in middle America for my children is rather predictable, secure, and comfortable. As a homeschool family, they do not have many pressures outside of our homeschool expectations. Our girls do not wake to the sound alarm clock, operate on little sleep, or wait for the bus in the cold. As parents, we are aware that their daily home environment does not demand resilience.
Resilience is a necessary character trait in our society. Mike & I have both been through tough times and know the importance of bouncing back quickly. We desire to build this trait in our girls and know that based on some of our life choices resilience isn’t required or exercised much in our home.
To mitigate the lack of resilience needed in our home we push our girls in other ways. We consciously want them to know they are capable of overcoming hardships, obstacles, or difficult relationships. When a tough situation comes their way, we want them to have the grit and tenacity to pull through.
A foundational mantra in our home is, “Hostetlers do hard things”. This mantra applies to many different areas of our lives. Whether it is overcoming the fear of heights, thinking we can’t bike one more mile, or feeling uncomfortable talking to people we are unfamiliar with. We push through as a family and do the hard thing.
Biking to Gain Resilience
Now that we live in the flatlands of Illinois, we had to find a family activity that was enjoyable, outdoors, and burned energy. Some of our close family friends are big into biking. They have all the gear and hit the trails as a family. With the inspiration of friends, we started to level up our biking gear and commit to longer bike rides.
Family biking was exciting if our end goal was the local Dairy Queen or stopping for pizza before heading home. If the biking itself was all that we were going to get out of time, it was met with moans and groans. The girls wouldn’t chose this activity on a Sunday afternoon, but Mike and I like to be outside and active so we bike.
Mentally the girls could not accept the fact that they could bike more than 10 miles. Before we would begin our ride, the girls needed assurance that it was only 7 miles or for sure not more than 9 miles. It was a mental block to go past 10 miles.
Mike and I were determined that the girls could go further than that so we made a plan. Our ride for the day was going to be down and back on the same trail, no fun food stops, and we weren’t going to tell the girls the distance we were going or how far they biked until we returned to the car. This ride was about building some resilence.
Early in the morning we drove to the trail head, unloaded all our bikes and just headed south to the cute town of St. Charles, IL. The girls were happy go lucky and just along for the ride. They knew we were going to St. Charles and had been their before so they were looking forward to the park but didn’t know how far it would be.
We had biked about 10 miles when a decent hill was approaching. The girls had enough of us not telling them how far they had gone and the hill was too much to overcome. After lots of tears and pushing the bikes up the hill, we persisted with the goal unchanged. Our family managed to make it to the cute town, enjoy the picnic snack we packed and happily head home.
When we made it back to the car and gave the girls the report that they had biked 22.2 miles that day, they were proud of all they accomplished. They beamed with confidence and were ready to take on the next challenge. One would almost think it was their idea to bike that far.
Family Right of passage
In my family of origin, one of our rights of passage was to bike the Sparta-Elroy trail in Wisconsin. We lived in Onalaska at the time and my grandparents lived in Merrimac so it was really those two endpoints that created our route. My older brother and my dad were the first ones to make the trek which family history deems to be about 100 + miles. It was a non-event in my eyes, the memories are that it was completed with ease and they biked right up to the door of my grandparents house.
When I was about 16 and my sister 14, it was our turn to complete this trek. There wasn’t any training or working up to this extra long bike ride. We would just get up extra early one morning, hop on our bikes in the driveway and start biking. I don’t even know if we made it to the actual bike trail before we started complaining about all our aches and pains. This ride was pure torture, maybe more for my dad but he was patient and determined.
I remember frequent stops, tears, and even falling asleep on the seat of a picnic table in the heat of the day. By the time we made it to the old railroad tunnels between Sparta and Elroy, my sister and I were ready to throw in the towel.
We wanted to know exactly how close we had to get before we could call in a car ride to our grandparents’ house. The balance of going an acceptable distance so we didn’t go down as wimps in the family while being realistic about our ability was tricky. We realized we would not be sauntering into our grandparents’ home in high spirits.
We made it to the Subway in Elroy, 60 miles from our house, and decided this was our final destination. Our legs and wills had been pushed to their full extent. I think my dad was spent and felt like he had overcome his own obstacles of raising girls that day.
Our stories of resilience
Having stories that prove we overcame difficulty help us when we are at the base of a new mountain that we are not sure how to conquer. I want our girls to have challenges in their lives that build resilience- the ability to bounce back from adversity. When they know that an obstacle can’t keep them down, they have courage to do their best and move forward.
How do you build resilience in your family?
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