Active Kids
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Kayaks, kids, waterfalls and a nervous mum

How adventurous are you when it comes to family activities?

On our recent holiday to Croatia we signed up for a day trip kayaking through a gorge. At the start, all kitted out in life jackets and helmets we gathered to get the brief from the skipper. He told us with glee about the waterfalls we’d kayak over and how one in particular was really BIG. I started to wonder whether the whole idea was crazy, especially with three kids and seriously considered just retreating to the safety of our lovely swimming pool.

These were double kayaks so my husband and I planned to take a son each and my daughter who’s the youngest was to go with the skipper. This seemed the safest option. Suddenly the responsibility of a seven year old who’d never paddled before was something I didn’t relish!

I’ve done a bit of kayaking before when I lived in New Zealand and in Shetland but I’m not a particularly strong swimmer and watersports always make me slightly nervous; especially when children are involved. My three had their own anxieties and the last thing they needed was negative vibes from me. So, declaring, “It’ll be fine. You’ll love it” I strode off purposefully towards the boat. It’s amazing how good an act you can put on when you’re trying to protect your children.

Double kayak with son

The water was crystal clear and the scenery was stunning. The river was slow to start with and we’d got our confidence up by the time we reached any sort of rapid. When we shot over the first mini waterfall I realised it would take an awful lot to dislodge us from the boat and I began to relax.

My 11 year old son seemed to have a natural ability to know how to paddle the kayak. We became a real team, shouting instructions at each other and working together to propel the boat in a forward direction (most of the time). When we accidentally headed into low hanging branches and rocks we managed to find ways to manoeuvre ourselves out of difficulty. When our arms were tired we took it in turns to have mini breaks to Β rest our burning muscles.

kayak trip kids

I loved it, memories of my previous trips came flooding back. I told my son the stories of me and his Dad kayaking with a tent and a few food supplies in the hold and camping on beaches in New Zealand. Trips around the rugged coast of Shetland with seals jumping around the kayak. Days when risk taking and adventure was so much more a part of our lives.

Then came the big waterfall. Only one person was allowed to stay in the kayak for this while the other had to get out and scramble around on the rocky path at the side. My son decided I should ride the fall. Then he changed his mind, he wanted to do it. I felt a mixture of pride in his decision, fear for his safety, sadness I wouldn’t get the chance to do it and relief that I wouldn’t have to……..mostly relief

waterfall kayak

Please note this isn’t THE waterfall. I was far too nervous to hold a camera for that one!

So, bless him, at age 11 he paddled solo over what looked like the edge of the world. I watched from the other side and saw my precious son hurtling over a waterfall with nothing but a blow up boat and a helmet to protect him. He stayed in (just) and skilfully regained control of the boat and paddled over to pick me up. He was beaming, it was ‘awesome’ apparently and he wanted to do it again. We were rewarded with a swim in the cool water and I had time to reflect on the possibly reckless parenting moment that had just passed.

kayak trip swim stop

A couple more hours of paddling and we were at our destination. We stretched out in the sun re-united with the rest of the family who’d had an equally fantastic time.

I’m so proud of him. I’m so proud of us. Working as a team with your child is the best feeling in the world. Solving problems, developing skills, taking risks together. We had one of our best family days ever. Being brave and trying something new is so rewarding. Importantly for me we shared exercise and time in the great outdoors. It was fun, memorable, demanding and ended with him asking, “When can we do that again?” Soon I hope but next time………. the waterfall is MINE!

What adventurous activities have you tried with your children? I’d love to hear about them. Leave me a comment below.

Fitness 4 Mamas

20 Comments

  1. that is brilliant! You are much braver than me πŸ™‚ Today I taught my 13 year old to ride a bike on the road for the first time, as he needs to cycle to school soon. In a way, that was scary, as I am all too aware of the idiots on the road trying to kill him (well, it feels like that), but part of being a parent is letting your kids do risky stuff in a safe environment so they can then go off and do things with confidence and some skills under their belt. And I’m sure your family will remember that holiday forever πŸ™‚

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    • Hi Katy, I know what you mean about the road cycling. It’s sad it seems so dangerous. My husband who’s a very experienced cyclist takes one child at a time and still feels nervous about it. It’s easy to be risk averse but as you say, helping them assess risk and grow in confidence is so important. Thanks for comment and it’s great your child will be cycling to school. Best wishes. J

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  2. I’ve never been to clever about risk assessment. One year we had so much snow here my daughter and I built a full size igloo together. I read somewhere that Inuit seal their igloos by lighting a fire inside, the walls melt slightly and refreeze. We dutifully went to a local Christmas tree dump, for it was that time of the year and got some fuel. Once we were both inside I cleared a space and made a small fireplace, lit up the trees to make a small fire and within about 30 seconds the whole thing filled with smoke. Yeah, not my best plan, we scrambled across the fire to get out gasping for breath and the whole igloo thing kind of lost it’s appeal a bit however it has passed into family legend and was a definite bonding experience not to mention a good lesson in how to not manage risk.

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    • This is a great story, thanks for sharing it Saul! I’m going to tell my son as he’ll really chuckle and then go and Google Inuit igloos. Making mistakes is how we learn and everyone needs a family legend!

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  3. Hi Juliet! This was great to read and I so related to your feelings both of nervousness and exhileration.

    My most adventurous ever experience with the children has to be the first time I took them on a canoe trip in the backwoods of Canada. I had another adult with me, but she’d never canoed before, so the responsibility really did rest on me. Yet… if she hadn’t been visiting us that year I might never have plucked up the courage to do it. That was the year it needed to happen — yet I almost didn’t do it. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to; my own parents had taken me, and I really, really wanted the kids to have that experience as well. But…

    The night before we left (complete with inadequate rucksacks and a certain amount of impractical food…), my friend asked me, ‘What is it that you’re afraid of?’
    ‘Accidents and bears,’ I answered. At least I had my head screwed on right; those remain the two biggest concerns when you’re in the backwoods. Oh, and sudden, unexpected illness, which we did a couple of years later! But despite the fact that my fears were well founded, I didn’t want to let fear have the last word.

    So we went. It was hard work (see above re rucksacks and food!), but it was a life-changing experience. You find an interdependence in situations like that that simply cannot be found in ‘normal’ life. It was also on that trip that my eldest stepped calmly into adulthood, as we worked out various challenges of the trip together.

    In fact, the experience was so important that we have become addicted. We now feel that a summer without a canoe trip is incomplete. So I really will not be surprised to hear about your next kayaking adventure!

    Mary

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    • What a lovely comment Mary. It’s weird when you find yourself looking to your child for support and confidence when it’s previously been only the other way round. Outdoor trips are great for adventure and bonding. Not sure I’d be brave enough to do it in Canada! Good for you! There’s bears in Croatia too I was surprised to hear that. None here though so time to dust off the boat in our garage. Xx

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  4. This looks amazing. Even I’m proud of your son! I do some white water kayaking at university. I’m not that great and I just do it for fun, although it can be terrifying, so I understand how you were feeling! I’ve also been to Croatia myself and loved it, such a beautiful country.

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  5. You are very happy. Your son is so cute. I’m impressive that your son could paddle at his 11 years old . I have a daughter and I hope, we will have the happy time as your family :). Now, she is too young to paddle with me πŸ™‚
    Thank you so much for your sharing

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      • Yeah, thank you so much and welcome you to myblog. If you have any comments that make it better, don’t mind to tell me. Hope that I have chance to join with your family πŸ™‚

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  6. Pingback: Looking back at 2015 and drooling with excitement at 2016! | Dr Juliet McGrattan

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