I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Door County, Wisconsin. One morning, a group of us booked a kayaking tour through a local operator. The tour was in Lake Michigan and we were to visit caves that are accessible only by water. When we arrived, the water was quite rough, and as I stared at the white caps and waves pounding the shore, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. After a brief lesson on kayak paddling, we paired up and headed out into the unsettling surf. My daughter and I have really never kayaked before, and our maiden voyage was quite enlightening. As I wrestled with my understanding of this activity, I discovered that it truly is the perfect metaphor for parenting.
Kayaks only head in the "right" direction when both persons are paddling with a common goal. One cannot paddle alone in a kayak and expect to get much of anywhere. And if your kayaking partner is paddling opposite you, the likelihood that you end up in a disaster is very high. Also, in order to navigate through rough waters, a kayaker must keep stay loose and keep one's head still, because if you move your head around too quickly, the balance of the kayak is thrown off. And finally, a sense of humor can really come in handy, when either rower is experiencing frustration.
Parents can learn so much from thinking about parenting as a kayaking adventure. Parents are much more successful when they "paddle with common goal". Parents need to be on the same page when it comes to discipline issues, chores, expectations, and life in general. This kind of commonality helps children to understand their world and helps them to grow in confidence. Parents who constantly paddle against one another are in truth, harming their own children, by causing stress, anxiety and misunderstanding. Parents will undoubtedly face challenges, but if you relax, stay calm and keep your head about you, these challenges can be faced without capsizing the family boat. And having a sense of humor is truly what it takes to calm the waters.