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The Courage of Boys

Madden has wanted to complete the Treetop Adventure course at Nashville Shores for 2 years. He hasn’t been able to because he wasn’t old enough. Well, now that he is old enough, guess what, we couldn’t say no. Really, Mariah didn’t want to say no – which meant I couldn’t say no. It wasn’t something Mariah wasn’t going to do and it wasn’t something we wanted Madden to do alone. Thus, I only had one choice – to do the course with him.

I was uncertain, scared, and excited. I was uncertain that I could even complete the course. I was scared of what we would face on the course. I was scared of how uncoordinated and clumsy I would look on the course. I was scared I would look like an elephant on a tight wire. Even though I was somewhat excited about the challenge, I decided to do the course for one reason. I was going to do this for Madden.

We arrived early to complete the waiver (basically our death waiver). As I signed the waivers and waited to do the training, I believe I used the restroom 5 times. This is typical of what I have done before the few half-marathons I have run. It was as if my body knew it was about to endure a lot of stress or excruciating pain.

As we began the course and faced the first obstacle, I thought a lot about why I let Madden and Mariah convince me to do the adventure. I would have never done this adventure and would have probably not let my best of friends convince me to do this course. As we progressed, I began to get a little comfortable on the course. We eventually finished the green (easiest) course and I began to get more confident.

Just look at how good Madden was doing in this picture:

As we climbed up the never-ending ladder to heaven at the beginning of the blue course, I grew a little worried. The blue course was a lot higher and a little harder. I wasn’t sure the ladder would even hold an elephant like me. The first obstacle was a zip line which turned out to be fun. The second obstacle was a little tough. The third obstacle made us really question what we were doing. Madden was in front of me and I saw his every struggle. As I stood back unable to help him, I did my best to encourage him through the obstacle. He was swinging back and forth, he was beginning to get frustrated, his safety line wasn’t sliding and was keeping him from moving through the obstacle. He was getting tired. I was getting tired balancing myself like an elephant on a tiny tin can at the circus. I felt like I was encouraging him to walk through the valley of death.

The guide came by (on the ground underneath us) to help encourage him. At one point, Madden asked if he could just let go and rest for a minute. The people behind us began to back up as he couldn’t get through the obstacle. One part of me thought about encouraging him to let the guide lower him to the ground. The other part of me didn’t want to let that happen (since he got me into this, we are going to get our money’s worth and finish this course). I wanted to let him make the decision. I didn’t want him scared, but I didn’t want him to give up. He fought through his fear, rediscovered his courage, and made it past the obstacle.

We eventually made it to the rope swing that swings into a net hanging in mid-air. This was the point the course got real – real serious, real hard, and real tough. This obstacle is so difficult that the course is set up so you can bypass the rope swing if you don’t feel you can pass it. The rope swings you into the net and then you have to climb the net (which will be swinging as you climb it). I thought the hard part would be letting go of the rope swing and grabbing the net. It turned out that wasn’t the case.

Madden made it through the swing and was able to climb up the net pretty easily. Now it was my turn. As I stood there, I reminded myself about how I had just encouraged him through a challenging obstacle. Then I convinced myself to swing into the net. I grabbed the net. Grabbing the net was good, but the way I was positioned when I grabbed the net was not so good. As I swung into the net, my approach was all wrong. I was turned around and hit the net backwards. I knew that if I didn’t grab the rope, I may not get another chance. Thus, I did the only thing I could and grabbed the net behind my back. I was basically holding the net behind my back and now I had to figure out how I was going to get turned around so I could climb the net. After swinging 160 degrees holding on to the net by my elephant trunk, I eventually slowed the swinging to 90 degrees and turned around to face the net. Now I just needed to get my elephant feet to climb up the tiny net to the platform. I made it to the platform and sat down. Who knew climbing a net suspended in mid-air was that difficult?

As I sat on the platform, I could hear Miles. He was on the kids course which was just under where I was sitting. I could hear his excitement. This is very significant because Miles has never been as adventurous as Madden. He doesn’t like heights, he doesn’t like rollercoasters, and he doesn’t like anything dangerous. He likes safety. However, he was doing the smaller course for younger kids – the only course he could do based on his age. This was a big step for him.

As I continued to sit on the platform, I had more thoughts:

  • I think I am dying
  • I think I am about to vomit
  • Where is Madden? Hopefully, the guides are watching and helping him.
  • Where am I? What am I doing?
  • I don’t think I can finish the course
  • Should I ask the guide to lower me down
  • Why does Madden have to have so much courage?
  • Why does Miles have to look up to Madden and try to do everything he does?
  • How did Miles get the courage to do this?
  • I can’t give up – I didn’t let Madden so how can I give up. What kind of example would that be?

I knew I couldn’t quit. I stood up and kept going. I realized that I didn’t want the boys giving up so I couldn’t allow myself to give up. It was probably 100 degrees. My heart rate was probably 175 bpm and my blood glucose was probably 5 mg/dL. I have no idea how I didn’t lose consciousness. I am not sure how I stood up, but I did. I stood up for my boys. I stood up because I saw their courage.

Madden had the courage to encourage me. Madden’s courage encouraged Miles. Madden’s courage helped us have the courage. Madden didn’t give up and finished the blue and green course. Miles finished the kids course twice. I finished the blue and green course.

As I laid in the grass exhausted, Max came up and said “I want to do it.”


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