While on vacation we took a 15 mile bike ride along the Hiawatha Trail. It’s a portion of retired train tracks that also run through retired train tunnels. The longest tunnel is about 1.5 miles. I am so impressed both Esposa and Hijo (on a tag along connected to my bike) were up for making this ride happen!
It turned out the longest tunnel was fairly muddy. With Hijo riding behind me on the tag along, this meant mud splattered him not only from his own tire splashing up on him, but also from mine. The tunnel also remains a chilly 47 degrees all year. About halfway through Hijo started crying due to feeling cold. As a dad who wants to protect, my gut reaction was to ride faster to emerge more quickly to the beautiful sunny day and warm Hijo up. It turns out the faster you ride through mud, the more mud splashes.
While trying to quickly finish the tunnel, Hijo reached behind him and realized that not only was he cold, mud had started running up his back. The crying, justifiably, grew even louder. And I rode even faster.
The air felt pretty tense for a while. Even once we emerged from the tunnel to bask in sunlight next to a small waterfall, crying and disappointment emerged with us. While trying to process it all, I heard Esposa say evenly yet forcefully, “John, you’re going to have to ride back through that tunnel to get dry clothes.” I immediately hopped on my bike.
By the time I returned, I resembled a mud monster. Hijo and Esposa had dried out and were enjoying the beauty of the forest. We regrouped, changed clothes and continued on our adventure.
On my extra three miles through the long tunnel, I processed what had gone wrong. I realized one big thing I could have changed was listening to Esposa more quickly and compassionately. Like Hijo, I suppose I lost my head in my own way. Esposa was telling me to slow down. The signs were there. It turns out if you ride slowly through mud, even if the tunnel is cold and your child is crying, you get less muddy.
Instead I powered through and tried to end an uncomfortable situation as quickly as possible. I also got myself, and Hijo, extra muddy through the process.
So I’m learning to listen, actually listen, to the voices of those around me. Esposa would have prevented some pain for everyone had I been willing to slow down and open my ears and heart to her.
This is good for me to remember. No, it’s not some earth-shattering revelation. But it’s also not a lesson I’ve fully learned. Even as I reflect on that day, I wonder how many times since then I’ve failed to truly listen.
Together, perhaps, we can all open our ears, and hearts, a little more to those we love.