“C’mon kids, let’s go on an adventure!” Dad roared down the hallway.
I groaned inwardly.
Dad’s adventures were … unusual.
There was the time he made us collect a dead fish from the beach so he could wrap it in chicken wire and preserve the skeleton as a kind of sign post for the windy track down to the beach.
The all day bike ride with nought but a packet of Arnott’s Milk Arrowroot biscuits to sustain us.
And the time we had to peel the stickers off a zillion jam jars that he used to replace a window my brother Genji had fired a slingshot bullet through.
I attempted to sound enthusiastic.
“Where are we going Dad?”
“To the inlet! There’s some beaut old rabbit traps up that way that I reckon we can use in the backyard!”
I tried to reason with him.
“Dad, it’s been raining for three days. I think we’ll get cold”.
“Rubbish” he retorted. “We’ll put on our wetties. It’ll be just like going for a surf”.
“Dad, how are we going to get there?” I persisted.
“There’s heaps of old canoes lying about. We’ll just borrow one for a little bit”.
I tried a couple more tactics, citing everything from the moon being in the wrong position, to us needing to wait for Mum to get home so we could help her unload the groceries.
“THAT’S ENOUGH” he barked, slamming his fist down for effect. “We’re going, and that’s that”.
Twenty minutes later Genji and I are in our wetsuits, pushing a canoe out into the inlet. We all jump into the one boat and clumsily start to paddle. The tide is sucking us out into the ocean, the southerly is howling and hard bullets of water pelt our backs.
Dad is in his element.
He laughs uproariously as the rain hammers down.
“WHAT A CRACKER OF A DAY, AY KIDS?” he beams at us. “Now this, THIS, is going to be character building”.
I’m paddling as hard as I can, so is my brother, and we haven’t gained any ground.
“C’mon kids, paddle! Get your backs into it!”
Hot tears start to roll down my cheek. I can feel a blister starting to form on my palm. I’m miserable and I’m freezing. I think glumly of the groceries back home, imagining a scalding bath, a cup of warm milk and milo and a cosy afternoon spent catching up with whatever adventures the Melling sisters would be having next in All In The Blue Unclouded Weather, my favourite new book by Robin Klein.
“C’mon! Keep it up! Almost there!”
My Dad’s hoarse yelling interrupts my thoughts, and I’m snapped back to reality. My ten year old muscles are fatiguing. I’m frozen like a piece of ice at the bottom of the esky. My teeth start chattering incessantly.
“OK, good work kids!”
My brother and Dad stop paddling. We’re around the bend, and the current is no longer noticeable.
And as if it had finally caught on to Dad’s unfailing optimism, the sun had burst through the clouds, streaming down in warm, fat bands of yellow.
Dad would say this type of stuff was what would make us strong.
And as a kid, I never really understood what he meant.
But now, with two kids of my own, I think I’m beginning to understand.
The only way we become resilient is by going through testing experiences.
We’re not born with or without resilience.
It’s not a genetic trait. It’s learned.
Walking up that steep hill on the bush walk, when you could easily just turn back instead.
Going back to uni to take on that Masters Degree, with your kids at home and a full time job in tow.
Pushing forward with your side hustle even when sales are slow and you’re tired and over it all.
Paddling a canoe in the pouring rain.
Doing the tough stuff makes you tougher.
Big love to you,
PS – I write more on this very topic (grit, resilience, getting through hard times) inside my new book Happy. Worth a read if you’re curious about the relationship between hard times and happiness.
PPS – Enjoyed this story about my, ahhhh, rather intense childhood?! Hahaha! Send this letter to a friend who might also enjoy reading it. And if they like what I write, let them know they can join our letter gang too! They can join right here.