Finally, after months following a suggestion from my therapist (yes, I have one of those too – not “too” in the sense that you also have one, but that I have all sorts of helpers in my corner…) I pulled my kid out of school to do something fun, just the two of us. I was a few vulnerable things about this. One, my teacher brain was all judgy like, what he’s learning in school and attending class should always be a priority. Two, my parent brain was thinking, what if you are setting a precedent here and he will want to miss more school? And finally, my migraine self was fretting about the uncertainty of pending doom, what if you have a migraine that morning or even worse…out on the water?!
Water?! That’s right. I bought him a Canadian Tire sit on top Kayak, after watching him for hours upon hours last year, playing with other kid’s kayaks while camping. It was exciting to see him be so physical, without music to move his body or his brand of Jim Carrey ragdoll your body comedy, throwing himself all over the floor like some spastic dolphin out of water. To encourage a connection with nature, knowing how much my own kayak time on the water brings me peace. And as much as I, myself, love drawing and being creative, it must come with a balance. That kid has drawn so many Titanic’s (from every angle and vantage point) and natural weather based disasters and phenomenon; tornados, hurricanes and water spouts. And on a real intense day of synergy you will find the Titanic being struck by lightening whilst simultaneously being sucked into a maelstrom (and you think you’re having a bad day!). I saw a window of opportunity and seized the shit out of it. Kayak was on sale and it was time to shake things up a bit.
My son has had his ups and downs since beginning Kindergarten last year. Now as a seasoned Grade One’r, he’s kinda getting the hang of things but still has his moments of struggle and personality conflict. When speaking with my therapist about this once, she suggested (as a retired teacher and principal of over 30 years) that I pull him out of class occasionally to do something special, mix things up for him and give him a reprieve in the middle of a tough week. I’d say overall, it’s been a tough year – with my health challenges and just life in general. And although she had suggested this back in January, I hadn’t pulled him out, other than our week to Mexico.
I saw the maiden voyage of his new kayak which he has already named “Ty” (short for Titanic indubitably) as an opportunity. He and I were in much need of connection after I had been in and out of some “stuff” the past week. Between exhaustion, migraines, acute neck pain and just feeling disconnected and foggy… I needed to have time with him to have some GD fun. And if you ask Ferris Bueller, there’s probably nothing more fun than skipping school.
Granted, this wasn’t an all day excursion into the heart of the city to look at great works of art and twist & shout lip sync battle on a parade float. But we did in a sense enjoy the sun on our cheeks and the cool breeze blowing the cottonwood fluff into our hair as we paddled our own convertibles across the calm water. He couldn’t help but notice the temporary tiny whirlpools our paddles made as they dipped and pulled the water, propelling us forward (and sideways and gentle occasional bumping into each other as well). Turns out being afraid of weeds is hereditary and when he saw the lily pads emerging from the shallow depths, he did panic, exclaiming he was sure he saw an eyeball on one…and no he hasn’t seen Little Shop of Horrors…but some images are just part of our cultural fabric and I am sure this is what he thought he saw (because I did too a bit). Ugh, weeds…so gross.
But the discomfort and uncertainty was probably the most powerful learning that happened out on the lake this morning – the two of us, moored together bobbing gently. We discussed the fear of the weeds and the depth of the water, I related to him to let him know I felt uncomfortable with the weeds too but encouraged him to listen and feel for other things as well. His grasp on the edge of my kayak eased a bit, colour coming back into his fingernails and then he noted the songbirds chirping in the cattails and a little damselfly sitting on the nose of my boat. We did this for about 40 minutes. Paddling along briefly, feeling like mother duck with my little one trailing behind, chirping to me all the while to make sure I didn’t leave him in my wake. Then we’d stop and float side by side, listening to the gentle waves lapping against the hard plastic hull and then paddle a bit more.
What was most learned for me was the abundance of patience I possessed. A year ago, I would have gotten at best, frustrated and short tempered with his fearfulness and lack of grit. I would have been critical and possibly used some gentle shaming to push him to paddle more and work harder. I spent money to buy you this kayak and now you MUST learn to use it, and you won’t learn by giving up and going to shore. I know it may seem like I am embellishing my harshness here, but I am not. Today was time well spent because I built trust and respect with my son, honouring his limitations and acknowledging his discomfort. As I write this last sentence (literally as it pops into my head) I am struck by the profound word choice, I gave my son exactly what he has been giving me in my own times of limitation and discomfort, like this past week.
I know I am older so should be wiser but in this case, I am just keeping up with this kid. He is teaching me so much about myself and the need for compassion. Powerful learning for us both today, outside the classroom.