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Paddling as a parenting tool

We got into paddling when my three kids were adolescents. It was great family fun to paddle down the Loyalsock Creek on weekends. We made it a family tradition with picnics along the twenty two miles we usually covered. So, when my oldest and I needed to work out some conflict, it seemed appropriate that I use the paddling experience to build the bond between us.

Now a little background. My son was fourteen or fifteen and very conservative in his behavior. He was not a risk taker, and somewhat introverted. Me, on the other hand have never seen a risk not worth taking, and quite gregarious. We were at odds over some discipline relating to chores etc. I don't recall exactly. After all, he is now forty-two and with three sons of his own. One of which is very much like me.

We put in above Higgins Camp and floated down arguing along the way about which part of the creek to use, or to avoid - no hit, the big waves. Bonding was not going so well. As we approached the swimming hole behind the Last Chance Saloon, we faced a very big decision. To the right was my target. It was a narrow, fast curving and large wave section along a high rock face wall. To the left was a very shallow section that rippled over small rocks for a bumpy, but simple ride down (might have even required getting out, if only…).

He tried desperately to paddle the front of our 16' Coleman canoe to the left, while I in the rear, used rudder strokes to overpower him. There was no evidence of bonding at this time, and any witness would have judged a crime about to happen.

As any canoeist would know, I won the direction fight, but lost control as we entered the class three section to the right, sideways! Now you must know that this 'chute' dumped into the swimming hole where a large number of kids were frolicking. Did I say there were high school classmates of his there.

The ride was brief as we were swamped and airborne before going under the large waves. My son frantically swam and dove for lost articles in the swimming hole, as I bent over to empty the boat on the opposite shore from where the kids were. He hastened me to get in and leave immediately, looking very humiliated and very angry. I'd guessed it was because of the almost hysterical laughter from the now gathered group of kids. They were all watching us now, pointing, and sharing jokes, apparently about us.

To prove my competency and regain some respect, I stood in the back of the canoe, as we paddled away. The laughter seemed to increase for some strange reason. When I sat down and felt the very cold seat, I knew why. My bathing suit had torn open in the back and I had been mooning the crowd for several minutes baling out the boat. My standing was an unplanned encore.

When I told my son, he gave me a look that quickly changed from horror to extreme anger, then slowly to fear, as he contemplated facing the classmates again at school. He paddled harder than I knew possible, as we rounded the bend and out of sight of the applauding high schoolers.

We rarely ever talk about this, without his face showing a range of emotions.
I do enjoy telling it though.

Written by: John Iannotti - Boothwyn, PA

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