Monday, July 25, 2011

Tim at the helm

Up in Maine over the weekend, I had my first opportunity of the year to go boating.

I enjoy boating but certainly don’t yearn for it; but for my 12-year-old, piloting a powerboat ranks right up there as probably one of his top three or four favorite things in life. In fact, during the weekend he mentioned that the Saturday a year ago when he boated all morning and went to an all-you-can-eat lobster picnic in the evening was “the best day of my life.”

This year, the two events were divided over two days: the annual lobster roll buffet took place on Saturday, but we didn’t have the chance to go boating until Sunday. My mother pointed out that the two activities were close enough that Tim could still construe it as the best 24 hours of his life even if it wasn’t technically all one day, but Tim responded that “Grandma, it doesn’t work like that.”

The fact that Tim loves boating so much makes it all the more fun for me, because it’s such a pleasure for me to see the level of engagement he shows when he has the opportunity to get out on the water. Under my father’s expert supervision, Tim plays close attention. He takes criticism well when he does things wrong, because he understands the high stakes where personal safety as well as the soundness of the boat are concerned. He takes pride in his nautical abilities, but he doesn’t rest on his laurels; he works hard to improve. With every ride, he gains more confidence and more skill.

It’s also teaching him to deal with obstacles and apprehensions. Yesterday, for the first part of the ride, he was anxious about the many larger boats in the vicinity and the wakes they were causing. “Oh, crap,” he said as each new set of waves from a passing boat hit us, until my father pointed out to him that “Oh, crap” wasn’t actually a nautical term. At that point he realized he was handing the wakes fairly well, and stopped fretting over each new one.

Another reason I appreciate Tim’s interest in boating is that he readily accepts the grunt work that goes along with the fun. At home, he has to be reminded to put dirty glasses in the sink and throw his clothes into the hamper, but with the boat, he’s always ready for the work that the sport entails. He knows the whole checklist he needs to run through before and after the ride, from snapping and unsnapping the canvas covers to putting away life vests, bumpers and ropes in their designated compartments.

It’s always a positive experience for parents to witness their kids engaged in something the kids truly love. I feel this way when I watch Tim play baseball as well, but baseball isn’t as much work as boating. What I appreciate when I see him on the boat is his grasp of the fact that most activities to which one wants to commit oneself include hard work, learning and concentration along with the fun. (Eating lobster rolls, of course, involves none of those extra elements, and he did plenty of that over the weekend as well.) Seeing how thoroughly he commits himself to becoming an ever better boater reassures me that he has the aptitude to learn and accomplish all kinds of things.

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