Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Boat launch

My 13-year-old has a passion for boating.

As my father pointed out, he comes by it naturally, perhaps genetically. Monday evening, Tim announced he planned to go to bed early and sleep late, just to make the seasonal launch of my parents’ boat, which was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, arrive faster, the way some kids try to get to bed early on Christmas Eve. “I was just the same way at his age,” my father remarked. “And Rick probably was too.”

So with a father and a maternal grandfather who share his passion for motorboats, perhaps it’s not surprising that this is one of the major driving forces in Tim’s life. And I always remind myself that the up side of having a child who is not particularly well-rounded, who immerses himself in a very small number of select interests, is getting to see his radiant joy when a long winter yields to a warm spring and a generous grandfather who was willing to schedule an early launch date this year.

It’s true that I’ve sometimes wished Tim had more diverse tastes. Whereas many of the boys his age watch all kinds of movies and TV shows, hang out in large groups, and opt to attend summer camps that showcase at least twelve to fifteen different activities a week, Tim has always kept his focus narrow. He has just two close friends with whom he chooses to spend most of his time. He currently likes just one genre of books – fantasy -- no matter how much his language arts teacher or I might urge him to spread his wings.

And he has two favorite activities: boating and baseball. Both are worthwhile pursuits, but both are also fair-weather activities. This means he has a tendency to effectively hibernate all winter, spending the vast majority of his free time sitting on the playroom couch reading or playing video games.

That’s hard for me to watch. There are lots of hobbies and interests I’d love to see him develop, and I get frustrated with his monomaniacal tendencies and his winter reclusiveness. But then on days like yesterday, as we prepared for the boat launch, all the hibernating almost seems worth it.

Tim woke up exuberant on boat launch day. He read the owner’s manual for the boat. He counted the minutes until it was time to leave for the marina. When we arrived at the boatyard, he was literally quivering with joy. His excitement lasted for the next several hours of boating and boat maintenance, and his first question after dinner was how early we could take the boat out the following day.

I can’t say it completely compensates for all the time he spends doing nothing during the winter. But with the boat launch this week and his first baseball game scheduled for next Monday, things are definitely looking up. Baseball and boating are under way, and Tim is his warm-weather self, his cheerful, exuberant self, again. Yes, it was a sluggish several months, even without a lot of cold and snow. Tim doesn’t have a lot of purpose during the fall and winter months. But baseball and boating are back in session, and so is he. It warms my heart to witness, yet again.

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