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HAPPIFAMLI

When a Family Outing Goes Wrong

Laura Standefer, Senior Family Outing Correspondent

November 25, 2019

A few months ago, my husband had the day off and we decided to finally visit the botanical gardens near Zilker Park. We grew up in Austin and had visited as children, but we had never been with our kid. We hopped in the minivan and drove downtown, excited about getting out of the suburbs to explore and discover. Everything was going well…for the first thirty minutes. While we were crossing one of the ponds, my four year-old mistook a pile of brush for a stepping stone. In an instant, his entire body was submerged in pond water. My husband instantly reached in and pulled him out. My son was smelly and crying. People were staring. The three of us were too shocked to really decide what to do next. We could have left and called it a day, but we kept going and I’m so glad we did. Here are some tips to help you turn things around when a family outing goes wrong. 

Stay positive. I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. You’re not instantly going to go from frustrated to Mary Poppins by just telling yourself to be positive. But, by intentionally looking for the positive in a frustrating situation, you could gradually improve your mood and influence those around you. When my son fell into the pond, we, of course, had brought no other change of clothes. We ended up having to buy him an outfit at the gift shop. Seeing him excited about picking out a “present” from the shop when we had intentionally not planned on buying him anything cheered all of us up a bit. This encouraged us to keep going on our adventure despite what had happened so far. 

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Get creative.  After my son fell in the pond, we changed his clothes and proceeded with our outing. We live way up north so we were struggling with the idea of just giving up. We were starting to enjoy ourselves again, when the sunshine was slowly starting to disappear behind unprecedented dark clouds. Then, you guessed it, the skies opened and blessed us with a torrential downpour. When does this happen in Austin? (The answer is never). I was ready to call it quits, until I realized that my son was playing in the rain and excited because it was “just like the rainforest.” So we pretended like we were in the rainforest. My husband put on his very best Nigel Thornberry voice and began telling us about every plant and creature we encountered, even though he had no clue what he was talking about. We accepted the fact that we wouldn’t be wearing dry clothes that day and continued on with our wet and wild “rainforest adventure” in central Austin. 

Laugh. Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep yourself from crying. If your outing is just a sequence of unfortunate events after another, why not try to find the humor in it? While wrapping up our day at the botanical gardens, I was walking behind my son and immediately started cracking up. Remember the “present” he was able to get from the gift shop? Well, it was a onesie that was way too small for him. When I looked closely, you could clearly see the outline of his little booty. I pointed it out to my husband, and we just laughed and laughed. Now we look back at our botanical garden adventure and consider it one of the most memorable family outings we’ve ever had.