Practically every dad needs a break from a stressful job. Often he lives for the weekend when he can enjoy his favorite hobbies: skiing, surfing, climbing, hiking, maybe even video games. Mom is not always thrilled with Dad’s need for an escape, because she, too, has a stressful job and needs a break on the weekend.
An LDS couple faced with just such a dilemma have derived a solution that is thrilling the kids, saving marriages and strengthening families. Dave and Kendra Hada, of Orange County California, have instigated the family mud run.
“Mud runs are all the rage these days,” says 35 year old Kendra. “My kids and I kept trailing my husband around watching grown men having a blast crawling through the mud, splashing in the water and climbing play-ground type walls. I thought, Why aren’t we in on this?'”
To determine if the idea of a “Family Mud Run” would have broader appeal, the Hadas sponsored a mini mud run of their own. The response was fantastic. Thirty-eight year old Mike (a non-member), was one of the most enthusiastic participants. “I have done so many races and events where all my wife and kids can do is cheer me on at the finish line. I am so pumped I have a killer event I can finally do alongside them!”
Mike’s wife, gushed praises of her own. “It’s so great when an event like this comes along and forces us to take a break from our busy lives and schedules and spend some wonderful family time together.”
Quality family time is what it’s all about according to Dave Hada, the force behind the family mud run. “I used to feel guilty getting up early on Saturday morning and spending the entire day doing my own thing,” he said. “I really love my family. But I also love challenging myself. Including my family in my passions seemed like the perfect solution.”
Plenty of dads enjoy their children’s company by coaching t-ball or youth soccer. Mom may also spend time with the family by coaching herself or cheering from the stands. Family mud runs, however, take family togetherness to an entirely new level. “We are actually on the same team,” Dave says. “I like watching my kids at their sporting events, but I’d much rather be doing something active with them.” Dave finds personal satisfaction when he can run with a child on his shoulders, or on his back, when he can climb up a rock wall himself, while hoisting a little one with a free arm. “It’s an even bigger challenge than when I run alone, and it’s far more satisfying.”
The family atmosphere is another draw of the family mud run. At a typical mud run the participants curse at one another and use terrible language as they vie to get ahead. At the end of the race everyone gets free beer so you see a lot of insobriety. In a family mud run the opposite values are encouraged. In a family mud run it’s not as much about winning as it is about finishing together as a family.
A 51 year old grandmother, the oldest woman in the event, recalls running across a suspended bridge over a pond. “There was this teenage boy behind me who really wanted to win and he sped past me and caused the bridge to wobble. I fell right on my behind. Before I knew it a great big Marine had picked me up by the waist and set me on my feet again. I probably lost only three seconds.”
Not only do family mud runs teach cooperation and selflessness, they teach the kids to excel themselves. All the self-esteem that is formed from overcoming obstacles, from besting oneself are achieved in a family mud run. Yet kids have a “cushion” if the event proves too difficult because their parents are right there alongside them to help them out if an obstacle becomes insurmountable.
In reflecting on his first mud run nine-year-old, Mason recalled, “My experience was that no matter what the challenge, you get encouraged by family to do hard things. It was one of the best days of my life and I can’t wait for the next race.”
A family mud run can be a microcosm of life itself. As parents we encourage our children to take on challenges so they will grow in confidence. However, if the challenge proves more than they can handle, it can create self-doubt. When mom and dad are right there beside the child to help him succeed, it increases the chances that the experience will improve the child’s self-esteem.
“My mom is always telling me not to get my shoes muddy,” said 10 year old Zack. “All of the sudden she is letting me get my shoes muddy, and everything else too!”
JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Jacksonville, Florida and the author of Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance. This coming Friday you can get more information on the Hada’s family mud run at www.fusefamily.com