Monday, April 23, 2012

Hercules and the Path to Olympus

Mark is out of town on a ten-day trip, and I'm happy to say that--especially considering my recent meltdown--we're all managing quite well despite his absence. I've indulged in a bit too much self-soothing Diet Coke, fast food, and hulu--but I've also launched a major offensive against dandelions in the lawn, guided teenagers through a couple meltdowns/deep conversation/life reassessments, and dealt with midnight crying jags, bed wetting, and nightmares.

So the other night I was trying to come up with some way to impress upon the kids the mutual benefits of cooperation. We're all into Greek mythology these days. (If you need a kick, ask Levi to explain why Hephaestus is the best of the twelve major Olympians.) So I came up with this fable to share over our Saturday-night pizza:

Hercules and the Path to Olympus

Zeus, as you know, is a very capricious god. One day he became so frustrated with humans and their flaws and foibles that he vowed to destroy earth altogether. When Hercules heard of Zeus's plan, he protested. After all, Hercules had a mortal mother on earth.

So Zeus offered Hercules a quest. If Hercules could carry all the problems and mistakes of humankind to Mount Olympus, earth would be saved. The mighty Hercules felt confident in his strength and agreed to the deal.

But there was one more thing: Zeus told Hercules that there were two paths to Olympus. One was a steep, rocky path that traveled uphill. The other was a smooth downhill path. Hercules could choose either path to fulfill his quest.

Choose Your Own Adventure Ending A
Hercules chose the smooth downhill path. He bundled all the problems and mistakes of humankind into a huge ball and bound them with strong cords. Then he pushed the bundle down the path. It rolled quickly down the path and landed at the steps of Mount Olympus. "Congratulations, my son," boomed Zeus. "Earth is saved!"

Choose Your Own Adventure Ending B
Hercules chose the rocky, uphill path. He bundled the problems and mistakes together and strapped them to his chest with strong cords. He heaved and pulled, struggling with each step. Each time his bundle hit a rock, he stopped and pulled on the cord with all his might to free it. After many long hours of backbreaking toil, Hercules finally arrived on the steps of Mount Olympus. "Congratulations, my son," boomed Zeus."Through your strength and persistence, you have succeeded in fulfilling your quest. Earth is saved!"

But poor, exhausted Hercules was so frustrated with mortals and all their troubles, he said, "Oh, forget it! I don't want earth to be saved. Go ahead and torch it!" And with that, he pushed the bundle back down the hill and away from Olympus.

You should have heard Jesse gasp at that second ending. I told the kids that like Hercules, our family can choose a smooth, downhill path or a steep rocky one. There are certain things that we are going to do. That night it was clean up from dinner, take baths, and get ready for bed. The next day, it would be get ready for church and go to church. When we bicker and complain, when we don't follow instructions, when we hassle mom, that's like choosing the rocky path. We'll still reach our destination, but we'll all be exhausted and grumpy when we get there. When we cooperate and use teamwork, that's like choosing the smooth, downhill path. Then we can take care of our responsibilities more easily and pleasantly and have time and energy left over for more fun.


  1. I completely sympathize since, as you know, my husband is on that same research trip.

    I also attacked the lawn (and even checked out the sprinklers to see if any were leaking). I also am dealing with kid problem after kid problem, although mine still stay on the younger edge like the shampoo spill I just cleaned up. We also did a very low-key FHE of stopping for Little Ceasers and ice cream after a soccer practice with the promise that they would stay downstairs or outside playing for the rest of the night. So far, pretty good (shampoo spill).

    Love the Hercules analogy and since we also love Greek mythology, I will have to steal it.

  2. You are truly amazing, Ang. Genius.

  3. Very nice. I must use this technique in the future.

  4. AND..... How is it working?

  5. "Go ahead and torch it!"
    I'm feeling like that these days.

  6. Yup, I'm definitely going to cadge this story. Thanks! I truly don't get this about kids -- why they choose to stir up the pot. I guess it's a power thing. But isn't it more fun to be happy?!