“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” A claim made by Ratty to Mole, in Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale, The Wind in the Willows, that would be firmly backed up by every minor in our household.
To be the captain of your craft, or as an extension of that, the master of your own destiny, is something so foreign to a child who by necessity, must live on a daily basis by the rules and commands of senior figures. To navigate one’s own way without obligation to seek authorisation, is something the young can only dream of. Unless of course, there is access to a paddle and a boat.
Immediately, without warning, decisions concerning enemy, invasion or location of buried treasure fall on young shoulders – and throughout, they must ensure the craft is on course and their stability within it is maintained. Strategic thought develops. To ensure the success of the mission, the relationship between captain and crew must be one of consultation, negotiation and inclusion. Team players emerge. And finally, if by chance, unforseen circumstances such as a capsize or leak should arise, reflection upon events with recommendations for future quests will be identified. Appraisal and evaluation in its infancy.
As the significant adult, your role is to remain by water’s edge, as silent sentinel, witness to the life skills that are maturing in the best way children know how – with play.
Postscript: whilst writing this post, I recalled, as a 7 year old, being passenger on a ‘tinny’ (like the one above) with my 8 year old friend and her brother on the Murray River at Wentworth Caravan Park. A regatta had been held on the water the previous day and the surface was littered with rubbish. As the brother (maybe 11 years of age) hurtled us along (without life jackets), we leant over and scooped up cans and assorted debris, emitting shrill squeals at each successful swipe. Could not understand why my friends’ father summoned us furiously from the riverbank and forbade us from returning to the boat for the rest of the holiday ……