Take Two on a Kayak

This headstrong family is learning a thing or two about teamwork. It all started with a kayak saved from a trash pile. Well, maybe it started well before that, but there’s nothing like kayaking to bring the principle home. Like a yoke of oxen, two people with paddles can pull different ways and make no progress, or work together and feel the sweet reward of speed through water.

The kayak is really fun. We use it to explore, to get some exercise, to get off the boat for awhile, to enjoy the water, and once, to ferry a child to a friend’s boat for the afternoon. Jay saved it using his handy heat gun and plastic welding rod, and we’re keeping it for the moment, although it takes up a good bit of deck space, to see if this is the right size and kind for our family. 

The first time I went kayaking was with our friends at Curry Hammock Sate Park, where it came to actual blows between our two oldest boys when they could not figure out how to get out of a mangrove tangle. I had them put the paddles in their laps and raise their hands in the hair (as in, “this is a stick-up”) until they could cool off, calm down and figure out what to do next. Although they finished well that day, they swore they would never go kayaking again. The two boys actually now love to kayak, though we haven’t turned the two of them loose by themselves yet. And surprisingly, even Sam has gotten the hang of it.  (Note, in the picture, we were giving the kayak a trial run a few feet from the boat, and Sam hopped on without a life vest, which is normally a must, of course.)


One of the pleasant discoveries I’ve made is that the kid I always seem to butt heads with works the most cooperatively, and somehow knows instinctively how to steer and which side to paddle on without my saying a word. And the one who can finish my sentences has no idea which way I want to go, but goes at it hammer and tongs and by golly! We'll get there by sheer strength! Another child really just needs some mommy-time and this is a great way to get it. This teamwork thing is so important for these relationships—I wonder, would I have made this discovery without the kayak?

Although our chore chart, recently re-vamped, has some two-person jobs that require teamwork, like sorting and bagging the laundry, I was having a real problem training small people to work together. We like to say we are “independent” and “determined” but it seems that really we are just a bunch of stubborn goats, with our own ideas of doing things and a lack of willingness to share a task. But now I have this beautiful floating analogy: all of our tasks on the boat are like kayaking. We can either hit each other with the paddles, or we can use teamwork and cooperation to laugh and actually have a good time while making forward progress.