Embracing Frustration

This summer we spent approximately five weeks in Mexico; not at the beaches or resorts on the east and west coasts, but in the central, northern deserts. When friends would hear that we were heading out of the country for the summer, they would admit their jealousy and wish to join us for vacation. Inside, I laughed. This wasn’t my first time heading to this particular area in Mexico. It also wasn’t my first time heading to the area in the heat of summer. Austin and I knew what awaited us. Adventures and bonding with our friends from across the border, and certainly a memorable experience, but ‘vacation‘ was not a description that came to our minds.

One Monday, after driving the kids over to playground only to find it closed, we returned to the apartment feeling defeated. There really was nothing to do on a Monday it seemed. I knew most businesses were closed this day, but my mind was boggled that even the public parks were gated and locked. The pools were closed too. What were we going to do all day?

The kids entered the apartment and started complaining and picking on each other immediately. This was the moment of our trip which I had known would eventually come. I hoped that the point I was about to make would sink in.

Up until now we had encountered some of the usual Mexican challenges: Random water and internet shut downs, cold showers, frequent lack of toilet paper and toilet seats at public restrooms, red ant bites, constant purchasing and shuffling of bottled water because the tap water was unfit to drink, sickness from said tap water, which we inadvertently consumed at less-chlorinated-than-American swimming pools, language barriers, different time schedules and cultural time expectations, and of course, the incessant heat. The temperature midday usually hovered in the mid 90s, and when it did break 100, the locals didn’t seem to notice. That was life here. Additionally, the only toys we had were the ones we had brought from our home in the north, save a few we had managed to collect along the way. This morning, it all came crashing to a head.


I cleared my throat and prepared to raise my voice. The fuss was rapidly growing and would soon derail into a full scale fist fight.

“Guys, I need you to quiet down so we can discuss the situation.” After some more prodding, there was finally silence. I continued, “I hear complaints that you are feeling bored and don’t know what to do. Look around. You can see even what we have right here with us is more than what many of the kids have who live in this country. You are blessed to have the house and toys we have in Pennsylvania. How many of you are glad to be American?”

To my surprise, a resounding “Me!” rang out. I smiled and embraced the moment. It had really begun to sink in. Wow. Hopefully this would stick next month, or at Christmas. Maybe even next year? I could hope at least.

Frustration, though unpleasant, is something to embrace. I am preaching to the choir, of course. Choosing to have a good attitude in the midst of frustration is one of the most challenging human endeavors I have encountered yet. Frustration grows you, if you let it. When the kids are frustrated, that is a prime opportunity for emotional intelligence training. It is important to learn how to handle oneself in the midst of frustration; that’s what maturity is all about.

Genuine personal growth rarely happens without some sort of sacrifice. Allowing some frustration in your day, or perhaps, embracing the existing frustration and choosing to be positive about it, can literally change your life. It will likely change you in ways that will help you scale bigger mountains and cross deeper valleys.

Our time in Mexico was grand, and I hope we shall never forget it. But it certainly wasn’t all easy. I hope everyone in our family learned more about themselves and how to interact with others in a positive way, even while in the midst of foreign challenges and daily frustrations.

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash. While this photo was not taken by me, it summarizes well our occasional water troubles in Mexico. It seems there’s always a pile of dishes waiting to be cleaned when we suddenly lose our access to running water.