Everyone on the mountain absolutely hated us. And, I couldn't blame them one bit. We had just taken our four children on a nature hike...we had decided that evening was to be a Wholesome Family Outing; one we'd remember fondly for years. Turns out we do, but not for the reasons we expected.
It started out badly. None of the children, ages 11, 10, 6 and 5 wanted to go. We cajoled and slightly coerced, with the promise of ice cream afterwards. Easy enough, right? Nope. The kids halfheartedly piled into the car and we made our way to the mountain. Immediately, the whining started, ranging from why-do-I-have-to-hold-my-water-bottle to she's-looking-at-me complaints. It promised to be a long walk to the top.
A park ranger noticed our frustration, and told us about a fun bird-watching event going on that day: plenty of birds, and lots of friendly bird-watchers, would be around, and wouldn't you kids love to see that? To their credit, the children feigned interest, and we began our walk.
Normally, the walk (up and down) takes about an hour. It took us 45 painstaking minutes to almost reach the top because of all the incessant bickering going on around us, and maneuvering around bird watchers. Meanwhile, my husband and I had almost reached OUR boiling point. After apologizing profusely to a walker my son backed into, the bickering amongst them started again. But this time, it was bickering and poking. Furious, my husband turned to the kids and yelled: "Stop complaining and enjoy nature!" Stunned silence followed. Not just from the kids, but from the 60+ other bird-watchers that had gathered to observe the birds. The next sound was terrible: the sound of many, many wings as a flock of birds flew away. All eyes went up to the birds in the sky, then came back down to us. It would have been better if they yelled at us, but their silence said everything.
My husband and I apologized profusely and got the hell out of dodge. Once back home (no ice cream for any of us that night), we tried to pinpoint where we went wrong: time of day? water bottles? choice of footwear? We both love to troubleshoot, so we were in our element. Turning everything over in our heads (and to each other) ways we could avoid such problems in the future. Late afternoon turned to early evening.
Then, our 6-year-old came outside with us. She picked up the doll she was looking for, looked up and said, "Pretty sky!", then walked back inside.
With all our troubleshooting, or frustration and embarrassment, we had forgotten one thing: stop complaining about everything and enjoy the damn sunset. (Tweet that!)
We had done our best, apologized when we were wrong, and resolved to do better. It was time to move on.
It's what we remember about that day.