More Than Pirate Ships, Hermit Crabs, and Ice Cream: The Power of Positive Attitude

We could have easily given up and gone home and called it a complete waste of time, a casualty of poor planning.

But it became one of the best family outings we’ve ever had!

Because of some last-minute cancellations, we had an unexpectedly unscheduled Saturday. Holy Moly, an open weekend day!

That rarely happens, so Hubby and I put heads together. How could we take advantage of this gorgeous June Saturday?

Hubby’s a history buff, and it was Father’s Day weekend… The Tall Ships Regatta was sailing into Boston… The best viewing would be from Castle Island, a waterfront  historical site very close to us (which is actually a peninsula, not an island). There’s ample parking, wide paved walking and biking trails, vast expanses of mowed green lawn, a playground, bathrooms…

We wanted to ensure the kids got some exercise, so we posed the idea to them. Did they want to go to Castle Island? Ride their bikes? See some pirate ships?


The sail had already started, so we rushed. It took us fifteen minutes to throw clothes on, stuff the kids’ bikes into the minivan, and snack-pack a backpack.


We arrived to find police shooing cars away from the event. NO parking, anywhere near the island! There were concrete barricades, massive bulletproof trucks filled with SWAT teams, and security checkpoints! What were we going to do?

“Hon, drop me, the kids, and the bikes off, and see if you can find parking. We’ll make this work,” I suggested.

Hubby grinned and pulled the car to the curb. Under the watchful eyes of about ten police officers, the kids and I got the bikes got out and scuttled to the sidewalk, while Hubby drove off.

The kids had donned their bike helmets and sat on their bikes, and my plan had been to find a viewing spot on the island where we could plant ourselves and await Hubby.

But a policeman approached us, and sort of apologetically informed me that there were NO BIKES ALLOWED today. He pointed us towards a guarded “Bike Valet” near the security checkpoint.

Oh, dear. Oh, well. Okay.

There was a beautiful, empty beach right there. The kids had already pulled off their helmets and run out to the shoreline in search of shells and sea creatures. They were thrilled.

So I rolled the bikes over to the Bike Valet and checked those in.

Then Hubby called:

“I’m in a jam,” he explained, with traffic sounds in the background. “There’s no street parking anywhere nearby, and the cops are saying I’ve got to drive out and take the train back in. They’re all telling me that I should have planned better!” We laughed. We hadn’t planned a damn thing.

We brainstormed. We had driven past a number of public beaches and yacht clubs on the way in… Maybe, just maybe, there was a parking spot left somewhere?

Meantime, the kids and I hung out on the beach:


About ten minutes later, Hubby called. He’d found a spot at the first public beach, about two miles away. He was jogging over to us. Ha!

But when we tried to get through security, we hit another obstacle. No backpacks allowed! Argh! Babygirl eats barely anything. We had packed the things she will eat: pea puffs, Pirate Booty, clementines, juice; plus healthy snacks for Babyboy, to supplement hot dogs and fried clams from Sully’s.

“It’s the kids’ food,” I protested, weakly.

The lady poked through the contents and conceded: “Okay, if it’s the kids’ food, it’s okay.”

Ha! On we pushed, easily finding an open spot on the grassy hill overlooking Boston Harbor:

Yes! We made it! We had a great view! The ships were beautiful!

And the kids got bored.

About three ships in, Babygirl and Babyboy decided that was that, and bolted. Babyboy wanted Sully’s food, Babygirl wanted to play on the playground, and they both wanted to hunt for hermit crabs at the nearest creature beach.

So we did all of it. Hubby wandered back up to the viewing point from time to time, and the kids ran up and down the hill a few times, but mostly, we puttered around like we always do when we go to Castle Island. Like there wasn’t a once-every-two-decades major event like the Tall Ships sail.

And it was lovely! At the end, we got the kids’ bikes and they rode along the shore to the car. Exercise, check!

There was an ice cream and pizza window at the parking lot, so we ended the jaunt with proper treats. We’d earned it. (I logged 20,000+ steps on my Fitbit!)

On the drive home, Hubby and I reflected. It had been a full, fun day for all. But it easily could have gone differently, and it was mostly a matter of attitude.

There’s been alot of sad, horrible things in the news very recently. The Grenfell Tower fire; the London Bridge terror attack; the congressional baseball game practice shooting; there’s more, on and on. Every night Hubby and I sit down to some sort of dinner together, and we not only state out loud how thankful we are for all that we have, we also vow to act accordingly. To us, that means focusing on the positive, no matter what.

This is not just our version of Christian pre-meal Grace. This is evidence-based psychology. People who are consistently thankful for what they have tend to be positive thinkers, aka, optimists. Optimists are generally more flexible and resilient, taking the good out of any mixed situation. Research shows that optimists tend to have healthier lifestyles, lower risk of chronic diseases, and better outcomes when they do get sick.

Most important to us, parents who are thankful, positive thinkers, optimists raise kids who are, as well. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids? For them to be resilient, to be flexible, focus on the positive, move forward.

I hope that’s what we showed them yesterday, and that’s what they take from it all. Not just memories of pirate ships, hermit crabs, and ice cream.

A few citations:

Optimism and Hope in Chronic Disease: A Systematic Review. Schiavon CC, Marchetti E, Gurgel LG, Busnello FM, Reppold CT. Front Psychol. 2017 Jan 4;7:2022. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02022. eCollection 2016. Review.

Successful aging: considering non-biomedical constructs. Carver LF, Buchanan D. Clin Interv Aging. 2016 Nov 11;11:1623-1630. eCollection 2016. Review.

The Protective Role of Positive Well-Being in Cardiovascular Disease: Review of Current Evidence, Mechanisms, and Clinical Implications. Sin NL. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2016 Nov;18(11):106. doi: 10.1007/s11886-016-0792-z. Review.

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