Hello, Hopespotters and Happy Mother’s Day! I hope that each of you are celebrating the day in a way that makes you feel special and loved - whether you're a kid Mom, pet Mom, stand in Mom or have/ had a Mom. I want to share the story of my Mother’s Day 2016, Be warned that it is intended to serve as a cautionary tale and I don’t think some of the language that will follow will be rated “G”.
I’m not going to lie - I love Mother’s Day. Being a Mother is the greatest thing I have ever had the privilege of doing. There was a time when biological Motherhood wasn’t a certainty for me, so that I have been granted this gift is something I believe to be miraculous. And I believe I have really great kids. With very little exception, Ryan and Sean are kind and bright and loving and fun. With boys like I have, Mother’s Day really shouldn't be such a big deal because I know they love me and they often go out of their way to say and show that. Nevertheless, I came downstairs this morning, after a lovely sleep in, filled with excitement for the day ahead.
And I was, in turn, treated royally. Is there anything better than homemade cards and heartfelt messages? And for my gift? A new, pink FitBit. I was thrilled. This was exactly what I asked for and Ryan and Sean were equally enthused about setting it up for me and teaching me all of its applications.
So, emboldened with feelings of “I love being a MOB (Mom Of Boys)” and “ We are a fit family” I made a suggestion. I cared not for brunch or a mani/ pedi. Wanting togetherness, I said, “You guys want to go zip lining today?” Excited head nods and brotherly shoulder punches were my response. Then, “Let’s GO!”
It is a beautiful day in Atlanta and nearby there is a place called “TreeTop Quest” that hosts a zip line course. In fairness, we went for Father’s Day last year but were rained out after level one. And I didn’t have a FitBit then. I pictured us on the cover of “Awesome Mom/ Fit Family” magazine. Anxiety and fear, especially of heights, weren’t even on my radar. Let’s fly, Family!
When we arrived, Sweet Lord Jesus tried to send me two warnings that I properly ignored. First, as Kevin was signing the waivers, the “harness man” asked me to step on a scale. I. Had. To. Be. Weighed. I softly asked him not to call out the number, which he gentlemanly did not. Instead, he said, “So you got some weight on you which means when you get zippin’ you’re gonna come in hot.” IF I had battled through the shame, I would have asked him more about what coming in hot meant, but I didn’t. I learned all on my own later. Second, as we were being fitted in our harnesses, we heard screams for help. A young boy was on level three and didn’t quite make it to the landing base. He thought he was stuck and he panicked. As Ryan and Sean watched him be coached to the tree, I calmly explained, “You see, boys- he’s panicking. You are hard to rescue when you panic. He’s very safe up there.” In hindsight, I think it was adorable that I said that.
So after a terrifyingly brief orientation about latching in the safety clip and using the pulley for the zip line routes, we embarked on level one. In my opinion, TreeTop Quest might consider requiring participants to watch a video about each portion of each level because once you start, you have to complete the level. Going backwards is not an option with their latch system. I am guessing they don’t do this because any adult with a fear of heights like mine would say, “I’d like my money back, please.” Here’s the thing: in level one and level two, there isn’t much zip lining. There are shaky bridges and rope lines and feats worthy of those a-holes, The Wallendas, who think walking over the Grand Canyon on a tightrope is entertaining. In level two, there are two zip line portions and in the first, I learned what “coming in hot” meant and my shin will now look like hamburger until the Fourth of July. As Ryan and Sean bounded through each obstacle, I could not for the life of me remember what the hell I had been thinking.
It is important that I share now the truth and the spiritual message of this blog. The safety clip system at TreeTop Quest is impermeable. Like many leaps of faith in life, the steps are scary, but it is imperative to remember that you are safe. God has got you. When we focus on the fear, we lose sight of the gift that our lives, our souls, are eternally protected. That is the truth.
However, all I could think was if I lost my footing, I might not crash to the ground, but I would dangle like a gelatinous piñata, shaming my sons for the rest of their lives.
My husband was a loving cheerleader. As Ryan and Sean bounded obstacles way ahead of us on level two, Kevin kept reminding me that I could do it. With those reminders, I kept adding an “N” to the end of his name. “Shut up, Kevinnn”. “I am going to die, Kevinnnnnn”. “I don’t even like you, Kevinnnnnnnnnnn”.
After nearly hyperventilating through most of level two, I called a family meeting. “Guys, I am not as good at this as I thought. Heights scare me. I want you to feel free to do Level 3, but I think I am out.” I am a fool and a sucker for compliments. “Mom, this is the BEST DAY EVER. You can do it. You are “the real MVP”. C’mon. Look at your FitBit. We don’t want to do it without you!!”
And then “Staff Girl” ( all 102 lbs of her and 19 years of age) appeared. “Are you going to do level 3?” I said, “I don’t think so. The bridges and obstacles in level 2 freaked me out.” Staff Girl then said, “Oh, level 3 is the funnest. There’s mostly only ziplining. No shaky bridges, really. It’s my favorite.” To Staff Girl I would now say, “What else is fun for you, Staff Girl? Being stung by bees.?” But I didn’t. With four gorgeous pleading blue eyes staring at me, I said, “Let’s do it”.
Staff Girl was a little right. At the beginning, there were only two shaky portions and they weren’t the hardest. What they did, however, was put you right up at the top of the TreeTop Quest. I don’t like to look out of my bedroom window and here we were now 100 feet up. Ryan was booming through like Tarzan. Sean began to falter and approached each new portion with increased fear. I was right behind him, trying to hide my own anxiety - poorly.
I must stop now to say two things: First, my mother is reading this and saying, “This isn’t funny, Jennifer. Poor Sean. This sounds awful.” She’s right, I messed up. Second, there may be a mother in Dunwoody reading this wondering if I was the woman who SCREAMED at her son for ziplining into the platform before we had cleared it. I may have said, with a purple vein bulging in my forehead, “YOU CAME TOO SOON!” And I may have seen tears well in his eyes. I’m sorry, 9 year old. When you’re in a fox hole, emotions can be raw.
So Sean got halfway through level 3, 120 feet off the ground and said, “I’m done. I am not doing this.” He was slightly tearful but very resolved. While Kevinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn thought for a moment that he would encourage him to finish, I screamed for help like there was a fire. Next, I heard this through a walkie talkie, “Spider, this is Monkey. We need a rescue in Zone 9. Send Acorn.” I didn’t have time to rage against the stupid nicknames or worry that Acorns typically fall out of trees before I learned that for Acorn to get to Sean, the four people waiting for us to go had to come to our platform. It got cozy and you know what trees do up high? They rock. As a crowd gathered beneath us to watch the rescue of Sean, I could only think, “If I poop my pants, it will rain down on them like a shitstorm from hell.” Acorn appeared with gear that seemed official. I was hoping she could take me down with Seanny, but Acorn didn’t seem like she could handle my "weight" that would make me "come in hot". Boring my eyes into her soul, I asked if she knew what she was doing. Acorn replied, “This is no problem, ma’am. Just finish the course and I’ll have him there waiting for you.”
Suddenly, it didn’t matter how high up I was or how shaky the platform felt. I had to get to Ryan at the next pass and find Sean at the finish. In a scenario like a Mother’s Day after school special, I found super human courage. I would latch, zip, and save.
The day did, however, have a casualty. As I left Sean in Acorn’s capable care and zipped away, there was a bright green lizard on the cable. Because sure, let’s add a reptile to this equation. Why not? When I hooked in, Kevinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn assumed that it would jump away. I thought of nothing other than getting to my boys.
I can only hope Mr. Lizard never felt a thing as he got caught up in my pulley wheels and squirted his life juice in my face.
I finished the last three portions in record time and found a truly unfazed Sean at the finish, drinking a Gatorade. My FitBit recorded a ridiculously low number of steps but perhaps the highest heart rate in brand history.
In conclusion, we are all home safe and everyone is saying I was AWESOME. When Ryan and Sean are in therapy, I guess I’ll need to be the one to share the zip line story. But I learned some key lessons that I pray to carry with me: your latch will save you, even if it isn’t pretty, and you can do ANYTHING when you think your kid needs you. It may have actually been the best Mother’s Day of all. Next year, however, I am going to think long and hard about that mani/pedi.