I keep a stone from the summit of a mountain on my desk. On it is written, “You can't get the mountaintop experience unless you are willing to climb the mountain.”
One thing I have been able to enjoy with my older children is mountain climbing. Over the years we have scaled several of the Colorado "Fourteeners" together. There is nothing like the experience when, after toiling for five, six or even eight hours together you finally reach the top. The views are inspiring and the exhilaration in sharing the personal victory is a wonderful father-son moment.
When my children were younger, I looked forward to the day when they would be able to join me. As youngsters they wanted to climb, but they just couldn't make it. They had the will, but they had not developed the endurance to make the trip. When they finally grew enough to begin the trip, it still took lots of encouragement to keep them focused on their goal and to keep them going through the pain and exhaustion until they reached the top. Once they made it to the summit and shared the mountaintop experience they have wanted to go back and repeat it, again and again.
I recently saw a morning news interview with a celebrity mom. As a mother of two children under two, she has written a parenting book which she was promoting on the show. The news anchors were obviously thrilled to have this attractive young mother on their show, but I had to wonder out loud, “What can she possible know about parenting after only two years and what could she possible have to tell me?” The viewers were assured that if they followed her advice that parenting could be “fun” and “enjoyable”
After four children and 23 years of parenting, I have some advice to offer the celebrity mom. Parenting is a lot more like mountain climbing than a walk in the park. You have to work and work at it. It takes a long time, with lots of pain and exhaustion. You have to constantly remind your children of the goal at-hand (such as finishing school or saving for a car) and redirect their attention to achieving that goal. They will want to stop, they will want to go back, and they will want to take a simpler, easier path. But if you stick with it, and continue to push against the gravity that always tries to pull you down, you can eventually enjoy a most incredible mountaintop experience.
But you can’t have the mountaintop experience if you don’t climb the mountain
Duane Highley is the father of four children in their teens and twenties. He and his wife Lisa reside in Little Rock, Arkansas.