Thankful for turtles and stories

We've had a lovely vacation, and are getting packed up to head home today. I thought, while you wait for us to return, I would share a story with you.

Yesterday, we had a leisurely morning followed by a visit to our favorite children's museum up here. We then went for lunch, and as a treat J.'s aunt rented canoes for us to spend some time paddling on a local lake. It was a gorgeous lake, a beautiful day, and there were lots and lots of fun little hidden coves and islands to explore which you could only reach by boat. How fun does that sound? Everyone was very excited. Everyone was very excited, that is, until L. caught a glimpse of the canoes we were going to be using, and started getting very quiet. (There was nothing unusual about these canoes; they were just your usual fiberglass canoes. I think she hadn't ever seen one up close.) Everyone was in their canoes, with two boats out on the lake already. I thought that L. was feeling upset that Y. was going to get to paddle first. No, that wasn't it. We weren't even sure what was setting her off, because she had already gone completely non-verbal, with very little warning. (There were probably warning signs, but in the midst of sorting out children, canoes, life jackets, and paddles, I was unaware of them.) It is at this point, that parents have to make a call. Does one of you decide to stay behind with the child, or do you insist the child do what is asked? It is often a very slim line to walk. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don't. I will also add, that this particular child has a vast history of not being one to be pushed into doing something she is hesitant about.

J. and I discuss the issue for a moment, and decide that this is just something she is going to have to do, and J. lifts her into the canoe. Let's just say the serene stillness and calm of the lake is now not so serene and calm. Did you know that large lakes can echo with very loud noises if they are surrounded by trees? We learned that they can. If there had been a sudden fog, no one would have even come close to running into us.

It seems, after some figuring out on my part, that it was the tippiness of the canoe that was so upsetting. She really felt as though the canoe was going to tip right over. (I had L. in my canoe, while J. had R. It seemed an even disbursement of effort.) After about 15 to twenty minutes of paddling, we came to a shallow, sheltered little cove which was perfect for exploring. Because we could see and reach the bottom, I spent some time showing L. that no matter how much I rocked the canoe, it was not going over. This turned the volume down just a little bit.

I have also learned something else about parenting this unique child of mine. She can be totally and completely distracted by story. There have been seasons of life where I would actually travel with a picture book or two, for emergency use. I had no book in the canoe with us, so had to improvise. There were many things about what we were seeing and doing which reminded me of one of L.'s favorite books, Swallows and Amazons. So, I started a non-stop, terribly perky and upbeat, narration of how we must be in the book. This distracted her even more, and at least the noise had abated, though she still was not back to being able to speak.

She was able to grunt out that she wanted to get out an explore an island, so we headed over to a tiny island with some pine trees on it, so L. could explore. J., being the (much) faster paddler, arrived at the island before I did, and while he was waiting for us, discovered a turtle. It seems that instead of traveling with picture books all these years, what I needed instead was the random reptile which I could pull out at a moment's notice. The appearance of the turtle worked near instantaneous results. Verbal ability returned, and as if a tap were turned on, all the possible stories L. was going to write when she got home about the turtle and islands and lakes came tumbling out.

The rest of the time on the lake was calm and pleasant, and I think L. even enjoyed a lot of it. When I asked her later, though, she is still not a fan of canoes.

These pictures are by D., and taken during the last, happier half of the trip, on a second island we stopped at. No pictures were managed to be taken of the turtle.





Carla said…
Oh my goodness. If L & G didn't look so much alike, I would think that somehow, we had twins separated at birth (by a couple of years). This whole post is such an accurate description of my 6 year old son, it's scary.

Thank you for sharing... if nothing else, it tells me that I'm not the only one in the world dealing with this.

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