We recently spent a week at the lake with family. My wife (in all her infinite wisdom) thought it’d be a good idea to sign our oldest, Isla, up for a summer camp. We found a three day nature camp through the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory.
About a week before it was scheduled to begin, we began talking about it with Isla so she would get used to the idea and (hopefully) get excited about attending.
It had the opposite effect.
She complained that she wouldn’t know anyone and that it would be so boring. She argued it was going to take her away from time with family and she was convinced she wouldn’t have any fun. There was whining and there were tears with all the dramatic flair that I’ve come to expect from a five year old.
As the first day of camp approached, her attitude towards it persisted.
We dropped her off. And we waited…hoping she’d enjoy it so we wouldn’t have to hear her complain for the duration of her camp.
The time to pick her up had arrived.
We sat, awaiting her arrival, with bated breath.
As soon as she entered the car, her first words were “Best day EVER!”
My wife and I were beyond excited to hear all about her experience despite her initial protests.
All her worrying and complaining and arguing had been in vain. All that energy expended had been for naught. And while my wife and I both knew she would love it, it was easy for me to brush off her worries as childish concerns.
Yet, how often do I suffer in advance? How many times have I obsessed over a worst case scenario, letting it occupy a large percentage of head space, for it to never come to fruition? How often do I worry about potential difficult conversations becoming heated?
The end result may not always be “best day ever,” but very often things don’t go as bad as I imagine or turn out better than expected.
There may be 30 years that separates my daughter and me, but the challenge of living in the present and not suffering in advance is one that is not unique to her.
This is the true responsibility of being a parent or a leader (the lesson is the same). The struggles we face and our own shortcomings influence the struggles of those who look up to us.
Those we lead become a mirror that reflects us.