Saturday, September 05, 2009
He was only 7 years old that summer. He had learned to sail an Optimist a few weeks earlier and so I took him and his elder brother on a week long Optimist sailing camp at our home sailing club on Rutland Water in the UK.
My role was to be a sailing instructor and coach for a group of about 8 or 10 kids. Neither of my own sons was in that group, which was probably just as well for all concerned. My little guy was in the beginners' group. His big brother was in the top group working on his racing skills and all that good stuff.
It was a fun week. One day we organized a treasure hunt where the kids had to sail from place to place around the reservoir picking up clues. For the older kids it was a good challenge; as for the little ones they probably sailed further and over more open water on that day than they had ever done before.
As luck would have it, the treasure hunt was held on the windiest day of the camp. Some of the younger kids were struggling to handle the windier conditions. At the second or third stop for clues around the lake, about a couple of miles up the lake from the club, some of the kids in my little guy's group came over to me and told me he was freaking out. He didn't want to sail any more.
I wasn't sure how to handle it. Part of me wanted to be the protective parent and tell my son that he could forget sailing and that he could ride in the rescue boat with me; part of me wanted to encourage him to face his fears and tough it out; part of me felt that the adults in charge of his group should deal with the situation as they felt best.
I probably wasn't a very good Dad or a very good coach that day. I refused to intervene and he had to sail all the way back to the club in his Optimist just like all the big kids did. He sailed straight back to the beach and didn't participate in the climax of the treasure hunt, some hokey thing to do with a ghost appearing on a moored boat to "scare" all the kids.
I don't suppose the experience did the little guy too much permanent harm. He didn't give up sailing. He went on to sail all kinds of boats, learned how to kayak and windsurf too, won his share of races, turned out to be a better sailor than me.
He's not a little guy any more. That Optimist camp was 21 summers ago. Little guy is getting married this weekend to a wonderful woman whom we all love.
I'm so proud of him.
Posted by Tillerman at 6:34 AM