Summer is kind of kicking my ass. I’m having stress dreams. I needed to ditch my schedule, walk away from work, get my kids to stop fighting with each other and just breathe.
Although I live in a state with over 15,000 documented lakes, I’m not a water person. I don’t water ski or spend a lot of time in boats. Swimming in lakes freaks me out because I can’t see the bottom. When something brushes against my legs, I assume it’s a giant snake and quickly scurry back onto the sand to my book and my beach chair. So, Door County might seem like an odd choice for a weekend away. If you’re not familiar with it, Door County is the “thumb” of Wisconsin and it’s probably one of the most beautiful parts of our state. It’s nature, bluffs, cute shops and shorelines for miles.
While hiking in the beautiful Peninsula State Park, I decided I wanted to rent paddle boards. The sun sparkled off the water and I had visions of us gliding along the lake, slicing through waves. There was a guy out there with a dog on his paddle board. How hard could it be? My oldest son caught my excitement and jumped on the bandwagon, but my younger son was leery. He was nervous about whirlpools and “drifting into the ocean.” So, we rented 2 paddle boards and a kayak and hit the beach for a crash course. First stop: life jackets. I have mixed feelings about life jackets. Pros: They will keep you afloat and probably save your life. They also cover up most of what I’m self conscious about in my new swim suit. Con: They make me feel a little bit like the marshmallow woman.
The lifeguard walked us over to our boards and got us going. He called me ma’am several times, which made me rethink whether or not this was a good idea. His instructions consisted of showing us which end was the front of the board and telling us to paddle. Seemed easy enough.
My plan was to start where it was really shallow and use the paddle on the sandy floor to slowly push myself out to deeper water. I figured then I’d already be standing and I wouldn’t have to try to get up on the thing. That earned me exasperated looks from the lifeguard as he explained multiple times that there’s a rudder on the back that’s apparently very sensitive to sand. So, we went further out and as I pushed away from the shore, the last thing I heard was “Ma’am, switch your feet! You’re not on a surf board!” We were off and running.
My son had no problem getting going and pretty soon, we drifted away from the beach. As I held on and struggled to stay upright, I didn’t notice right away that my son was freaking out. He yelled that he couldn’t turn. I looked up to see him in a shallow part of the lake, among the weeds totally panic stricken and crying. My kid was terrified and I couldn’t get the stupid board pointed in the right direction and paddle over to him fast enough. Worst feeling ever. Everything was in slow motion. Luckily, my husband swooped in on the kayak and tried to talk him through it. We were 15 minutes into our adventure and he was ready to throw in the towel. He was done.
Meanwhile, my younger son watched all of this drama from the kayak. That little brother instinct to one up his brother kicked in and suddenly, he wasn’t afraid of getting stuck in a whirlpool anymore. He wanted in. He shouted “I’ll do it!” and dove off the front of the kayak and hopped on the paddle board. He basically ignored all of our instructions and figured it out by doing it. Over and over, he plummeted into the water with style and flair. He’d stand up, paddle a bit, fall in and pop back up laughing. I suspect he liked the falling in almost as much as the paddling.
Pretty soon, both kids were laughing. After a while, his board glided along the lake and he had it down. My older son watched all of this from the kayak and seeing his little brother owning the board tugged at his pride a little. Pretty soon, he wanted to give it another shot. They switched again and A got back on the board. This time, he was calm. He focused on what he was doing, took it slow and he did it! Watching his confidence grow was my favorite part of that trip.
We spent the rest of our time on the lake paddling around and having a great time. Just as I smugly reflected on how awesome it was that I hadn’t fallen in, the water got a little choppy, the board got a little wobbly and suddenly I hit the water. My legs flew up over my head and I plummeted upside down under water, frantically trying to figure out which end was up. There was no sandy bottom to push off from and I started to panic. Then, I remembered my life vest. I relaxed and let it float me up to the top to the hysterical laughter of my family. I lost my sunglasses and a little pride, but overall it was a success.
It started rocky, but in the end, both kids loved it. I wasn’t able to “fix it” when my kid was floundering, which was hard, but it was pretty great watching my kids help each other. They fixed it themselves. Finding their bravery helped them come out of our adventure wanting more. I think we all learned something about perseverance, which would came in handy the next day when we put our patience to the test in double kayaks. More on that later, but for now, I’ll just say that if you want to test your relationship with someone, get in double kayak with them.