I asked the kids what they wanted to do on a balmy afternoon, and the consensus was a trip to the local bike path.  We spent an hour digging the bikes out of the garage, pumping air into tires, searching for helmets, and trying to figure out how to fit two bikes and a stroller into the vehicle.  I felt like I’d endured a full workout before we even pulled out of the driveway.  I was ready for inspiration about how to turn your day around before we even got started.

Fifteen minutes later, we hit the open trail.

I was about 20 yards down the path when I heard him behind me.  The six-year-old was wailing, and we had barely even begun.

“What is it, buddy?” I tried to ask nicely.

“My shoe broke!” The little guy held a dismembered sandal in his hand.

“I specifically asked you to wear your school shoes, not sandals, for this exact reason,” I barked.

He wailed louder.

After securing the sandal strap with a granola bar wrapper, we were off to catch up with his older sister.  From the stroller, the youngest protested my choice of snack.  With my two unhappy boys, I proceeded down the path.

We made it about 50 more yards when the wailing started behind me again.

This time, the boy with the broken sandal couldn’t balance due to lop-sided training wheels.  I turned to watch, and as he attempted to pedal in my direction, he veered into the weeds.  Crying, he pulled the bike back onto the trail.  Ten seconds later, he was back in the weeds.  This happened two more times before he finally caught up to me, and we were still a stone’s throw from the car.


How to Turn Your Day Around When It’s Falling Apart

In my disappointment, I took a long, slow breath.  Mind you, my biking buddy was sobbing hard at this point.

“I think we should save the bike path for another day,” I told him.

“No!  I want to ride my bike!” he protested.

“Buddy, it’s not going very well.  Why don’t we go hiking somewhere instead?”

At this point, his big sister had made a U-turn on the trail and pedaled in circles around us.  “Come on,” she whined, “I wanted to ride my bike!”

“Do you see how well it’s going?” I asked in an unbecoming tone.

“No!  I’m riding my bike,” the little guy declared, and tired of fighting, I conceded.

As we made our way down the path, the disappointment of riding into the weeds every ten seconds finally got the best of the sweet boy who was weeping in frustration.

I don’t know what it is about biking meltdowns, but over the years, I’ve learned to identify this particular brand of meltdown as a real trigger for me.  Maybe it’s because the idea of going to the bike path sounds like so much fun.  All I can think of is fresh air, the wind in my hair (even if I’m walking behind a stroller), and the adventure.

When one of the kids struggles on the path, my high expectations are shattered by the sad reality that the outing was just one more opportunity to practice bearing the hard-earned fruits of patience and kindness.

I’m an all-star at being patient and kind when everything’s going my way.  But when my hopes for a brisk walk on a sunny summer day are shattered by a howling six-year-old, patience eludes me.

I’m an all-star at being patient and kind when everything’s going my way. But when my hopes for a brisk walk on a sunny summer day are shattered by a howling six-year-old, patience eludes me. 


How to Turn Your Day Around When Your Expectations Are Shattered

Let’s pause to have an honest moment here.

Let’s have an honest moment about our expectations and what happens when our closest people fail to meet our expectations, particularly our hopes for easy and smooth-sailing days.

Maybe you’re an amazing mom who is an expert at setting aside your expectations to meet the needs of your melting-down children.

Bless your heart.

I am not.

What do you do when your trip to the park on a sunny summer afternoon turns into an all-out showdown between you and your defiant toddler?

What do you do when the playdate with your new friend leads to a tantrum that mortifies you?

How about when the fun trip to the zoo becomes a hot, sticky, and painfully exhausting adventure?

Perhaps you aren’t raising kids, but you have your own people.  They are the people on the team at work, and every time you count on them to hold their weight on a big project, they let you down.  Perhaps your people are your friends – the ones who never seem to reach out when you could use an extra hand.

What do you do when life is hard, and your people let you down?

There’s obviously not a cut-and-dry answer to these questions, but one thing I’ve learned is this: There’s nothing wrong with changing course.


How to Turn Your Day Around by Changing the Direction

All too often, I make a bad situation worse when I force my unhappy child to finish what he started.  I tell him we came to ride at the bike path, and we will ride the full 3-mile loop.

As the six-year-old with the broken shoe wailed behind me at the bike path, I knew I faced a decision: I could force him to ride/walk the whole 3-mile bike loop, and we’d all be miserable for the next hour.  Or we could pack it up and change course.

I chose the latter.

“Let’s go do something different today, buddy,” I suggested, turning the stroller around and redirecting the big sister back to the car.

Immediately, the wailing turned to a more subtle level of sobbing.  The little guy turned his bike around, and we walked back to the truck together.  He sniffled the whole way.  I was still irked.  But I bit my tongue, scratched my hopes for a long walk, and took all three kids for a hike in a different park on the other side of town.

We climbed tall hills.  We threw heavy logs into boggy ponds and even found a desolate playground.  Everyone gulped down rootbeer from the emergency stash in the back of the truck. Little Aiden shared his goldfish crackers with everyone.  The day was redeemed.


Here’s what it taught me:

You might have good intentions regarding your intricate plans for the day.  In fact, I believe you have the very best of intentions.  You want to create rich and wholesome experiences, all while getting things done and feeling accomplished.

Your ambitions are godly and noble.

But when your actual life fails to comply with the expectations you’ve placed on your day, the best thing you can do is change course.  When the work project falls to pieces, you can choose to begin again in a new way.  When the recipe flops, you can scratch it and try something new.  You can always make adjustments.  Make adjustments, and remember this: You choose the kind of life you want to live. 

Your life might be productive.  You might be good at getting things done and sticking to your plans.  But you might also endure more than a few miserable days in the process.

I’m learning to recognize the value of packing up, calling it quits, and changing course.

There is a time to leave a full shopping cart in the grocery store and head for home with your screaming baby.

There is a time to leave the playdate earlier than planned.

There’s a time to scratch the long day at the zoo, the night out at the restaurant, and the ride around the full bike path.

There’s no dishonor in adjusting your plans.  You really do get to choose the kind of life you want to live.  I’d rather change course than be miserable.  But that’s just me.