We went to the zoo last Sunday.
Well, we tried to go to the zoo.
About an hour away from home, on Alberta's busiest highway, we got caught up in traffic stalled due to an accident about a kilometer down the road. That is when our car ceased to function.
I like to tell people that while my car isn't pretty, it works pretty good. Well, I guess that's not entirely true. It is about fourteen years old, suffers from the scars of vandals, and still shocks people that we can have two kids and a two door sport model, but I like to think in terms of environmental footprint and ability to park in small spaces.
Though my car's normal mechanical reliability lapsed, it really doesn't matter what we drive or what precautions we take because that thing that they say happens, happens all the time.
Being stranded for several hours with the kids just outside of Calgary on the south side of Airdrie while The Man sorted out the car and tow got me thinking about what things we do to prepare ourselves for when things don't go according to plan. Being a mama, I've usually got a snack, a few bandaids, kleenex and a tampon in my bag along with health numbers and an emergency spot of cash. But, really, none of that was going to help us get through the next few hours and alleviate the children's fear and disappointment.
For us, this time we were stuck in the box store district and had no lack of our material needs. We were actually lunching on sushi and mini cherry pies while watching the tow guys and for vegans having to eat on the roadside, we were pretty darn lucky.
Still, spending several hours in parking lots or cruising Wal-Mart, however, was an incredibly poor and depressing use of time, so the kids and I decided to walk into town a bit and see if we could find a movie theatre or playground.
This involved a fairly major walk, particularly for such young kids, but both of them were not only up for the walk, they were excited. Not too long after crossing an incredibly busy and noisy intersection, we discovered Airdrie is actually a lovely, peaceful place. We didn't find a movie theatre or playground, but we did make the best of it and found much to do and inspire us
We almost forgot we were supposed to be at the zoo instead.
I was incredibly proud of my kids. And myself, because I realized that we had taken the much more important steps previously to prepare us for the metaphorical rain on our parade than worrying about whether we packed the umbrella or not. We were physically and mentally ready for anything.
So, if case you ever have a broken car or find yourself in bad weather or, heaven forbid, worse, here are some things you could be doing now to make the best of a future bad situation:
- Be in the habit of looking on the bright side and teach your kids how to do it. A little daily thinking positively practice will help you prepare for when you really need it. It'll probably make your life better too.
- Be in good health. Eat well, get enough sleep and stay hydrated. It's much easier to deal with troubles, and especially with children, when you aren't also desperate for a nap.
- Be in good shape. You may have to walk. Maybe far. And carry kids too. Having a good baseline of strength and endurance could mean a whole lot one day.
- Condition your children to walk. There are various ideas about how long a child should be able to walk without assistance (I once read in a Waldorf information packet that a mile per a year old is completely reasonable) but whatever number you come up with, just being able to walk for an extended period of time is a desirable for everybody, children included. If you can, park the car and walk to the store, library or school instead. Walk outside every day for at least 30 minutes. Walk as a family. In addition to being good exercise, it enhances mental health and can get you more connected to nature and community. I can't think of a single good reason not to go out for a daily walk. So do it.
- Dress comfortably. How do you know when you should be dressing for disaster? You don't. So live comfortably. I'm not going to say what works for you, but you know and should stick to what feels good to you and forget about what is in style this week. Fashion isn't always comfortable and if you are going to be stuck someplace when you least expect it, I'm sure you'd rather be wearing clothes and shoes that are made for living in rather than being looked at in.
You can't be prepared for every disaster, but the suggestions above are life enhancing all of their own not just handy bonuses when in an unexpected situation. I'd like to hear you suggestions too of how to live well whether or not it goes according to plan.