Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On Front Yards, Sink Holes, and Resilience

As a family with 2 kids ages 3 and 5, we are lucky to have a large front yard.  It is a great place for our kids and neighbors to run, jump, play, whatever.  The only problem is, our front yard has a minor sink hole.  Not a huge one, but one significant enough to create a 4-6 inch drop spanning the length of our yard and about a foot wide.  This large "divet" in the terrain initially proved challenging for my children  and their friends when they played in the front.  It made soccer games unfair, as the team protecting the goal that sits behind the sink hole had an unfair advantage given the bunker that protects it from infiltration, in addition to its goalie.  And it made running from first to second base of the makeshift t-ball field we set up notably treacherous as inevitably the runner had to leap across the hole twice to avoid falling in it.  You get the idea.  As a result, this sink hole has been filled with pebbles, dirt, and re-sodded numerous times, in attempts to create a level playing surface for our family's so-called "athletic" endevours.   But despite all efforts, the sink hole always returns in some form - maybe a little further South or a little more North - but it always comes back!

Our front yard really is a metaphor for life and how we handle the "sink holes" - the obstacles that challenge us along our own life's path.  The way I see it, there are 3 choices. 
  1. Fill in the sink holes. 
Whatever the obstacle is, try to make it go away.  Say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done to create an even, level playing field. When another sink hole appears, repeat the process.  The problem with this method is that, just like in my front yard, sink holes always return in one form or another, regardless of how many times we try to even our path. This response assures a life lived on the defense, always waiting for the next hole to appear, always filling in and patching just to get by.

   2.    Step away from the sink holes. 

Knowing that it is just going to reappear, why not abandon the sink hole-ridden surface and find a different path entirely?  Who needs obstacles anyways?  My kids could just move their sporting events to our backyard.  It's flat back there and completely sheltered with its fenced and wooded perimeter.  The problem is, abandoning a challenging path for an easier one often comes with significant drawbacks.  The simpler route may not have the same benefits as the rougher road.  In the case of my backyard, because it is so private, it loses ease and accessiblity to the neighborhood kids' participation in these games.  So although my kids might be able to play their games on a flat surface, the "team" sports will have to become one-on-one games between my son and my daughter, which  (given my kids' age and skill differential) will undoubtedly make the games quicker and less interesting, or much less spontaneous.

  3. Figure out a way to play despite of (or even with) the sink hole.

Accepting that the path is challenging yet valuable, figure out a way to work with the sink hole's presence.  Is there a way to look at the obstacle instead as an opportunity?  "Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child." This notion can serve as important advice for each and all of us, children and adults alike.  Playing fields aren't ever perfect.  Sink holes, fallen trees, and inclimate weather prove no different than any of the obstacles and challenges that will confront us wherever we go, whatever we do.  Comprising ourselves and our goals to assure a simpler path may, at first, seem to make things easier, but in the end, it assures stagnation, if not, diminishment, not only of the personal growth that comes from traversing a challenging road, but of who we are meant to be. 

So we decided to keep our sports in the front yard. Sure, sometimes the soccer games aren't so balanced and t-ball runners become a little more guarded on their first-to-second base dash, but in the process, the kids have learned agility, balance, not to mention determination and resilience.  Plus, if you kick the ball into the sink hole at a certain spot from the side, it jets the ball into the goal at an angle that no goalie has been able to stop!

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