When I picked the kids up from their day camp on Monday, the instructors were clear about the plan for Tuesday’s itinerary. “We’re going rafting tomorrow, unless there’s lightning. Please pack accordingly,” they urged.

The forecast for Tuesday was terrible. The temperature would dip to half of what it had been peaking at the week before and there would be rain. Lots of rain.

I had half a mind to give the boys an easy out if they didn’t feel like rafting an icy glacier fed river through the center of the city in the pouring rain. My wife could get some paperwork done at home while they self entertained, and then she could drop them at my office in the late morning, and they could hang in my studio.

We’ve done it before, it could happen, and then I remembered the early days we had Zacharie in daycare and greeted this face one spring day.

Our preschool had a ‘play outside every day’ rule. Unless the temperature was very cold – which never happened in North Vancouver – the kids would spend a few hours a day playing outside. Zacharie could not yet walk when we first started going. We would arrive early to pick-up to find him banging at puddles, digging in mulch, and beaming.

We, the bubble wrapping first time parents, argued with the staff but they’d have none of it. “The kids play outside every day,” they explained. “That’s just how it is.” We were basically told to accept it or find other care options.

We eventually learned to loosen the top knot and appreciate those very muddy days as the very best days. You can hang a muddy buddy out to dry. You can bathe your kid. You can do laundry. The collateral damage from playing outside on a raining, wet day is manageable.

The experience is completely worth it.

So while I thought of giving my boys an out from their rafting adventures, I didn’t. They didn’t have a choice, they were going to go in the mist, rain, and cold temperatures. And I was going to look forward to picking up some tired and wet dogs in the afternoon to take home to wash, bathe, and warm up.

When I picked them up, they weren’t as ragged as I had thought.  But the stories were exactly what I had hoped for. “Charlie fell out of the boat and had to blow his whistle!,” Zacharie exclaimed before describing the size of the rapids and how he wants to go again and find bigger bumps.

“Wait a second, back up,” I hesitated. “Charlie, you fell out of the boat?”

“Ya, but I blew my whistle three times and they came and got me.”

The bubble wrap started to worm it’s way around my mind again. But we were already a block away from day camp so I couldn’t get details from the supervisors. I asked a number of other times trying to see if the story was embellishment, but no, it was real – Charlie fell out of the boat and floated a ways down the Bow River in just his life jacket.

And he loved it. “I was a little scared, but they got me out,” he explained in a no-harm-no-foul kind of way.

Life is better when we crawl in the mud and fall out of the boat. That’s where the stories come from, that’s where the lessons are learned, that’s where our character is built.

**UPDATE**
None of this really happened. The next day at day camp, I asked the councillors to fill me in on what happened with Charlie falling out of the boat and .. he didn’t. They explained he was a little afraid before going in (of course he would be) and explained to them that he had family who had drowned before (no he doesn’t).

So when I asked him how his day was, he just kept spinning the story. How and why his brother bought in as entirely different mystery. Such is life with kiddos. Dirty, lying, lovable kiddos.

Disclosure: University of Calgary camps is a brand partner.

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