I took my kids kayaking this weekend. I got them settled, showing them how to turn and paddle, in the little cove by the beach. They figured it out pretty quickly and were soon ready to venture further away. Chloe led the way, and Chaucer brought up the rear. The way they kept their little sister between them, this instinct to protect her, was a beautiful and sacred sight.
I caught up with them on the other side of the width, of a long and narrow lake. They had beached their kayaks and were playing by the shore, finding leeches (ew!), tadpoles, minnows, crawfish and sunnies, as well as rocks, sand patches and sticks. We stayed awhile, and then they wanted to head further down the lake, to a particularly sandy spot. I considered the wind and the current, for the lake is really part of a river system, and asked Sally what she thought, since she is the youngest, just turning six in May. She really wanted to do it, and my adventurous side took over, so I said OK. My older daughter and son started to pull Sally’s kayak back out into the lake, wanting to help her. She insisted on doing this herself, which is really no surprise, since one of her famous lines since she was two is, “By Self.”
We reached the sandy beach easily and played there for some indeterminable, beautiful, no telling how long perfect stretch of time. The times that you dreamed about before you had a family, the perfect moments. I soaked it in, acknowledging and realizing this was one of those moments.
When it was time to head back, the big kids took off. It didn’t look harder and you couldn’t see the current, but Sally had a noticeably harder time now. I had an abundance of patience and paddled around her over and over, coaching her on what to do. At one point, she fell off, startling us both. I was amazed at how fast I buried my fear and told her she was fine, she had on a life jacket and I was there. I was doubly amazed at how fast she hopped right back on the kayak, sitting astride with her paddle in hand before I could finish my comforting.
Changing our family’s lifestyle feels much like swimming against the current. As I have started sheepishly telling people in my real life (the ones who still don’t know about this blog, this other side of me) the reactions are different. Many people, if not all, identify with the “I’m tired of this. This is too hard. We are too busy”...etc conversation. But rarely, if ever, do I find someone who really is ready to embrace the change. They know its not good, but can not even envision how to change it. Others are busy, but comfortably so. Some have cynically given up, saying things like, “I don’t want family time. All that time is spent as a referee and listening to arguing and sitting in our messy house.”
My son has a small group of friends who are very athletic and good at many sports. Some are signing up for three sports this fall. Most are doing two sports, because this is the first year they can do football. I have still signed him up for none, although I am still open to maybe one. Football is three nights a week from 6-7:30, and weekend games for 8 weeks. Soccer is two times a week and weekend games. When I ask these parents how they do both, they respond, “We are half assing both of them.”
All of his very best friends will be on this football team, and I know he would like it. And even if I build in down time to just play, all of his friends will be too busy.
This is paddling against the current. It is harder than going with the current. My husband, kids, and I might fall off our kayak. We might momentarily lose track of where we are headed. We might be scared, or uncomfortable. I will remember how quickly I cast away my fears trying to comfort Sally after her fall, knowing she was safe and would get back on her kayak. I will remember how quickly she and I rebounded.
I will continue to paddle upstream, envisioning our destination of a different life.