Raising kids…it’s kinda like sailing..
This Easter, for the first time, our family is scattering in the wind.
While I am heading to Perth with the youngest daughter for a waterpolo competition, two of my step-daughters are heading to their mum’s, the other two are spending the chocolate break with friends, while my husband is putting all of his hands on deck to sail in the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race.
I went and watched him in training last week and he’s not bad at hoisting.
When we set off in a practice race in a beautiful cataraman called “Attitude’, everything was what they call ‘right’. A clear day, good knots and a full crew. (and one useless observer)
An exhilarating experience, which I am comparing to when I brought my first baby home from hospital.
The weather was perfect, the car-seat was strapped in correctly and I had my mum on board. Smooth sailing ahead.
It’s curious how quickly the conditions change.
Heading out, the crew on Attitude were in a gregarious mood, they were on target for their handicap start and were feeling confident..
Then, one of the fat ropes that attach to the big sail in the middle came off the loopy thing and everyone started yelling and running.
Imagine you are nursing your baby and they vomit all over your friend and their couch…and the ensuing mad scramble for cloths, clean clothes and the bathroom.
Pretty soon though, there’s a controlled calm as the sailors re-attach the fat rope and they start the race, 20 seconds later than they expected and well after everyone else.
Not unlike the inadequate feeling parents have when their kids finally start walking and eating solids, despite being behind the “start time” everyone else had for their child.
For a while we sailed strong and true, but with the skipper’s wife getting her left hand confused with her right hand, we steered a little off course.
In her defence, her skipper husband was yelling, “left hand down, no right hand down, right hand further down” very loudly and almost constantly.
If you can work out which one is free, put your hand up if you’ve had that burden where, one hand was doing something different to the other and two things at once.
Not to mention a fair amount of noise and yelling and blust going on around you.
In the wrong direction to the wind, we stalled a bit.
In sailing lingo, we becalmed.
Strikingly similar to when the kids are sitting in front of the television or computer and not doing their homework or coming to the dinner table. That frustarting feeling when things should be happening and they are NOT!.
After un-becalming and heading in the right direction; another rope, this time skinnier than the fat rope and running up the mast; snared, so that one of the front sails didn’t open properly or go to the correct side of the boat. (I couldn’t really work it out)
Someone ran to un-tangle it, but the captain yelled ‘No’ he needed that crew member to stay where he was and wind a winch, so no-one knew, who was supposed to be the un-tangler.
A bit like, when the kids claim that cleaning up the mess wasn’t their job, so the captain does it.
The rest of the race was all very busy, very noisy, seemingly disorganised, but only superficially, extremely exciting, then fairly calm and peaceful. Yes that sense of, why are the kids so quiet?
But it was exactly what I had hoped for.
Ever since I saw ‘Romancing the Stone’ and the final scene where Michael Douglas was standing on a yacht, moored in the middle of New York, in a never-going to fail attempt to impress Kathleen Turner…I have harboured a desire to sail exotic places and challenge myself on the high seas.
Never mind that I had never sailed before, let alone been on a boat.
A few decades on and my romantic Hollywood ocean fantasy is hopefully only a few fat ropes, and a big sail away. (I’m adopting the fail-safe, financial belief of children that money grows on trees or comes out of walls.)
I’ve had a few learn-to lessons on a boat the size of a ironing board and as a reporter on a yacht race where I did nothing but take notes.
And now with my hubby learning the ropes…fat and skinny, it seems more of a possibility than a far-off dream.
So, as we sailed back in towards the finish line in that practice race, taking advantage of the wind and the size of the boat and with everyone prepared for more unforeseen circumstances, it was time to catch my breath.
The kids are taking advantage of the opportunities we have provided, they have a safe place to sail out any problems and with a couple now out of school, we are mostly prepared for the prevailing changes life can blow at us.
You know that fleeting, often elusive feeling of parenting success, when problems have been solved, a crisis sorted, wrongs righted, team work has triumphed and happy calm descends and you know it’s turned out okay.
Well my husband and I feel really confident now, that one day we’ll throw the kids overboard, somehow get a boat and do some sailing ourselves.
It’ll be our next baby. For now happy Easter.