Forced family fun. That’s what we called it when my siblings and I were growing up and my parents dragged us all over kingdom come to create memories. Whether we were climbing miles up a mountain to swim in a lake created by a melted glacier, or touring yet another Civil War battlefield in the pouring rain — we were going to do it together and by golly we’d like it!
There wasn’t much that deterred my parents from these family adventures, and it’s become a bit of a running joke between me and my siblings. Like the week we went camping in Gettysburg during what can only be described as a summer monsoon. Literally all the other campers packed up their tents and left within the first day or two of rain. But not us.
Never mind the fact that it was so wet we couldn’t get a fire started, everything we owned was soaked, and we had to huddle in a tent playing cards while Dad tried to cook hot dogs on the camping stove under a canopy made from a recently purchased poncho. No – the Boyer’s don’t let a little rain stop them. (I know this, because my Dad reminded us every hour.)
That mantra was drilled into me throughout my childhood – rain or shine, we press on.
Through bugs as thick as blankets – we keep hiking.
Through altitude sickness and exhaustion – we keep going.
Through torrential rains or scorching heat – we keep moving.
Through motion sickness that claimed not only me, but also my sister and our dog – we keep driving.
And that is why we call it forced family fun.
Because no matter how hard or uncomfortable things got, Dad kept a smile on his face and a joke in his back pocket. No matter how much we complained, he remained steadfast in his resolve. The result? A tight-knit family full of inside jokes, a childhood full of amazing experiences, hilarious stories, and beautiful memories . . . and a lesson in perseverance.
When I think back on my childhood summers, I laugh, but it catches in my throat a bit as the deeper effect of these experiences pricks my heart. It wasn’t until adulthood that I understood how much “forced family fun” shaped my heart, my spirit, and my faith. Those experiences have proved to be perfect metaphors for certain seasons in my life and I see in myself the tenacity learned from my father.
- When infertility set my husband and I on a roller coaster ride of disappointment, we held on. To each other, to our God, and to our hope.
- When miscarriages stole the lives of our first two children and grief rained down, we pressed on.
- When our adoptions took twist and turns and nosedives we weren’t expecting, we kept going.
- When illness tried to steal our joy, we kept seeking and leaning and laughing.
- When special-needs came to label our family, we kept learning and growing and hiking.
Life is hard, but God is good. The cement for this foundation of my faith was poured in the early years of my life. It was strengthened by each family memory – the ones that produced tears, laughter, frustration, and joy – and it proved strong enough to bear the load of the life waiting for me.
These days my husband and I provide our own two children with plenty of forced family fun. And when they groan and complain I smile to myself, knowing that not only are we strengthening the bonds of our family, but we’re also laying the foundations for their own faith and future.
Rain or shine, we press on . . . “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)