Donderdag! Kids Thrive.

The Mule Skinner CX races last weekend were pretty amazing. The venue was beautiful and relaxing. It was a farm setting in the woods, surrounded by rolling hills, with a big pond in the middle. The course was one of the most challenging courses seen locally in a while, with lots of off-camber climbs and descents and a long off-camber section on the back of the pond dam. One area of the course went through an old wooden barn. It was pretty nice. The Move Up kids had a bike camp at the venue over the weekend. Add to that, the venue was a little way out in the country, and it ended up with many kids staying after their races. If you had carefully looked around and watched, you would have noticed kids taking place in an activity becoming rare in American families. Free play. They ran around, acting silly, exploring, floating in kayaks, generally not paying attention to anything, just being kids. To be sure, there was serious racing. The course was long and challenging and demanded hard work. But when the kids were done racing, many families were still there, and the kids loved it.

Take this to heart, parents. The winter holiday season is often the most stressful time of the year for families. School and sports demand your time, lots of it. Getting the house ready for family guests becomes an issue. Shopping, running errands and preparing food for people you can't wait to see leave adds weight to the remaining days until January 2nd. Why? Why do this? Break out of the nonsense. Choose your time to play. Get your list out and scratch off 50% of what you think you have to do. Forget painting the dining room, and don't worry about how outdated your friends and family think your kitchen is. If you can't figure out how to do this, ask a kid.

Ask the kids that were running around in swimsuits with an Etch-A-Sketch at Mule Skinner. Ask the kids who splashed in kayaks, zipped in and out of tents, and ate food they dropped in the grass. Ask YOUR kid what they want from mom and dad for the holidays. You're feeling better already, aren't you? Take a breath and soak it in. You know your kids are correct, and that list of yours is nothing more than an anxiety attack waiting to blow up at the worst moment—this holiday season play. Go to sporting events like Cyclocross, where hard effort is followed by joy, fun, and laughter as recovery. Scratch all the critics and naysayers off your guest list, and confirm it with the most honest family members of all, your kids.

If the home improvements haven't been made by now, skip them. Most workers are booked past the end of the year anyway. Pretend your great grandma is helping out, the one who baked a whole holiday meal on a stove most people would consider obsolete now. Hold her hand and feel the foundation of discernment and confidence. When uncle so-and-so says the turkeys to dry, or the gravies too wet, strip down to your swim trunks and draw an arrow pointing to the door on your Etch-A-Sketch. You and your kids deserve the funniest, happiest, and joy-filled holiday season ever. Your kids are showing you the way.

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