What Kayaking Taught Me About Parenting

By Lara Krupicka 

We shove off in ankle-high water, and I settle into the two-person kayak, taking a tentative dip with my paddle. In front of me my nine-year-old daughter does the same, and we glide along behind her sisters in their shared boat. My husband follows solo.
Once the initial splashing subsides, a mantle of quiet settles over the river. Tall trees line the riverbank, and beyond them I look into forest. Soon we’ll be deep into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, leaving commerce, houses, and people behind. That is, if I can stop running into the fallen trees that jut out into the water on either side.
“Paddle on the left,” I instruct. We inch around submerged branches, then suddenly break free and shoot across the stream into another set of logs. My daughter and I limp this way down the river for a half hour. Occasionally I jump out and push us back on track.
Never mind that it is our first kayak trip and we haven’t received any instructions. It should be simple. And if the waters were wide open, we’d be fine. But they’re not. My frustration mounts.
I rest my paddle against the boat. My neck and arms ache from the constant effort. It’s almost too much trying to paddle a kayak for two in such cramped spaces. My instructions to my daughter come too late. Her strokes fight against mine. This isn’t what I expected.
Somehow I expected it would be easier.
My husband pulls alongside us and offers to switch places. I agree.
As they push off, my husband calls out over his shoulder, “If you hold your paddle down in the water on the side you want to turn, it will go that way.”
I try it his way, holding my paddle against the current, and watch as the tip of the kayak swiftly tilts the direction I want it to go. At a narrow gap I try it again, breezing through without tangling in branches.
The tension eases from my shoulders. My boat behaves the way I intend—all from holding my paddle motionless in opposition to the pull of the stream.
Later when we trade places and I’m with my middle daughter, the value of this principle becomes even clearer. I no longer depend on her to help steer. I am captain and can keep us on course. I match my strokes to hers and hold against the current when I need to. We are a peaceful pair.
It hits me how this mirrors parenting. Lately I have been paddling hard, telling my kids where they’re off track and how they need to change what they’re doing. I tire myself this way. Instead, at times I should simply set my paddle in and push against the current to shift us back on course and out of the weeds of life.
This perspective, along with the family outing itself, is a blessing. Somehow I thought being a mom would be easier. The reality is that we’re all sent out onto the river of life without instructions—that is, until someone calls out over their shoulder with a much-needed tip.

Lara Krupicka is a parenting journalist and mother of three. She’s also the author of Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day.

Kayak, canvas, and an adventurous spirit…

Artist Boat supplies all the ingredients for a delightful family memory in Galveston

For parents who appreciate the power and beauty of a unique family experience, Artist Boat provides interpretive kayak tours guided by biologists and artists to places of natural significance on Galveston Island and in Galveston Bay. It’s a perfect way to bond with the kids while discovering the art of paddling, expressing your creative side through art and exploring the estuary.

The interpretive staff of certified kayak instructors will lead your family to breathtaking and significant places via kayak. You will learn about native species and natural processes, learn water coloring techniques, and develop paddling skills (although half the fun is laughing with kids while you paddle in circles).

Paddling destinations include Galveston Island State Park, Armand Bayou, East Beach Lagoon, Christmas Bay, Drum Bay, and other locations throughout Galveston Bay.

It’s a perfect outing for families, as it presents countless opportunities to see nature—and each other—from a new perspective.

Artist Boat is a nonprofit organization whose staff has extensive experience in art, environmental, and outdoor education. Guides are trained ACA kayak/canoe instructors and are trained in first aid and CPR.

$50 per person (includes equipment rental)
$25 per person (without equipment rental)

Hours of Operation
Office Hours:
Monday thru Saturday: 8am – 5pm

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november, 2020