Here’s a quick look behind the curtain: “In support of new experiences” was one of the two working titles for this piece. The other was “Dealing with new experiences.” Why is that so important to acknowledge for this month’s blog post? Read on.
Late last month, my wife and I treated our oldest daughter and a few of her friends to an experience we hope will be remembered throughout her life. Our daughter had just become a bat mitzvah (a coming-of-age experience in the Jewish religion that requires a fair amount of preparation).
Rather than hold a giant party, we put together a nice event for family and close friends and let our daughter pick out a weekend trip on which we would also bring a few of her school buddies. As you can imagine, two adults traveling with five teens and pre-teens could definitely be a coin toss in terms of end results. Hence, the two working titles for this piece.
As we all discovered, though, regardless of any individual event, the entire experience was amazing. We all learned quite a bit. Here are four takeaways from our weekend at Universal Studios Orlando that can be applied to any new experience that comes our way.
Let it go
As with any planned opportunity, there were preconceived notions on how things would go. As with much of life, things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Here’s one such example. We had planned our trip to conclude late on Sunday to allow maximum time in the parks over the weekend. When we arrived at the airport to fly home, we were treated to an amazing-looking thunderstorm. While it didn’t dampen our spirits, it did impact our ability to take off on time. Of course, as can regularly happen, little was in our direct locus of control, so we just had to let it go.
As I’ve matured both professionally and personally, I have become more accustomed to having to do this, and it was nice to see the kids accepting elements of this as well. (a few were even hoping for a really long delay so they could sleep in the airport; they still have a lot to learn.) This was a great reflective opportunity for me professionally as well, as I have to regularly remind myself that not everything is within my capacity to decide or even influence.
Make the most
A weekend at a theme park resort is not a lot of time, so part of what we shared with all of the kids (though it was a good reminder for my wife and me as well) was that while our time would be short, we could still make the most of whatever experiences we had. This meant planning, of course, and also welcoming whatever small opportunities came our way.
For instance, one evening, the kids wanted to go swimming. The weather was great, and the pool at the hotel was awesome. So, my wife and I did a bit of dividing and conquering. One of the kids wanted to relax and read and do some social media scrolling, so I stayed up in the room and got ready for dinner. My wife took the kids who wanted to swim down to the pool, and they did a quick swim break before coming back up and getting ready to eat. At that point, I walked over to the restaurant so we could keep our reservation, and then they met me there.
Making the most of situations requires shifting the mindset from what was to what also could be. That “also” is important, as it recognizes that there are multiple ways to move life (and work) forward. Life is never a straight line; it is always a bunch of curving paths with branches throughout.
Laugh a lot
When you are traveling with five kids, whether they are your own or not, there are going to be multiple opportunities for laughs. We had plenty. While some of those opportunities were meant to be jokes, for others we were clearly laughing because we might cry otherwise. But laughter, whether due to a funny situation or a ridiculous one, is still laughter. And that’s the best part.
In one situation, as we were sitting in the airport waiting for the flight delay to update, my daughter and her friends had the totally adolescent idea to ask one of the airport employees who drives the transport cars if he would take them for a ride back and forth along a few of the gates. The kids were respectful about it, and since flights were grounded, the cart really had nowhere to be, so the employee smiled and obliged. They had a blast going back and forth about thirty feet and then thanked him after a few minutes. He was smiling, and we were laughing, and it felt good for everyone.
Whether in the professional or personal space, laughter is truly everyone’s best medicine.
Know your limits
In all aspects of our lives, we have to recognize when we are coming up against current boundaries. This isn’t a bad thing; it is simply a recognition of our own capabilities at the present moment.
On Saturday at the parks, after having ridden three significant roller coasters in the span of an hour or two, I was pretty much done for the day. While my oldest daughter and one of her friends wanted to do more, I knew that I was one ride away from being totally useless. So I declined, amid their “Come ons” and “Pleases,” so that I would be somewhat put together for the remainder of the day and night. This not only helped me; it also helped my wife, who would have been less than pleased had I needed to lay down at 5 pm.
Recognizing our limits isn’t a failure; it’s a self-noticing that puts us in tune with who we are, where we are and what our present needs are.
There were many great lessons throughout the weekend. As I finish writing this piece the day after the trip concluded (appropriately exhausted), I can’t help but smile at the fun we all had and the learning we all experienced.
Fred Ende is the director of curriculum and instructional services for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Ende currently blogs for SmartBrief Education, and his two books, “Professional Development That Sticks” and “Forces of Influence,” are available from ASCD. Connect with Ende on his website or on Twitter.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.