Racing in a canoe with your kid isn't for sissies, either!

 
 

By Jennifer DuBose

Columnist and blogger
 

Water, check. Sunscreen, check. Sunglasses, check. But "Oooh, I forgot to Google 'canoeing,'" I winced, as my husband backed the car out of the driveway last Saturday morning. I'd hoped to soak up some last-minute tips on how to avoid tipping … Noah and I had canoed before, but never in a race - and certainly not for six miles. But we were pumped, ready or not.

We pulled into the Batavia VFW parking lot where the shorter leg of the 49th Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race on the Fox River was to launch. The kids hopped out as I finished applying my makeup.

"Hang on guys, gimme a sec," I said, wielding my mascara wand.

"You don't need makeup to canoe," Noah commented dryly.

"Yeah, but I wanna look cute in case they have to fish me outta the river," I mumbled.

***

"Mom, we have some competition," Noah whispered, gesturing toward a cluster of boys and their parents, "and someone's stretching," he added. "Yeah, we ought to do that," I replied and laughed as we both immediately did a few quick stretches in the check-in line.

Next it was time to select our rental canoe. But how to choose?

"Which color's faster?" I joked with the guy in charge. He steered us toward the fiberglass models. Noah picked a red one, and then we donned our life jackets. A last-minute potty-break and we were ready, more or less.

But first we had to get our canoe to the launch area. Canoes are a lot heavier than kayaks, so I was glad my husband Todd and daughter Holly were on hand to help.

 "I'm gonna puke," Noah said, as we waited our turn to launch. I had butterflies in my stomach too, until I noticed that a kayak outfitted like a Pirate ship and a little tyke in a 'police' kayak were in our heat. This would be fun. The weather was perfect and we even had a tailwind. What could go wrong?

***

"Hey, that's Devil's Cave," Noah said, pointing toward the left bank of the river as we paddled past the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora.

"Looks different from the water, huh?" Things do look different when you look at them from a different perspective, I thought, and the metaphors just kept on coming. Funny what the mind does in novel situations.

Noah sat in front and I steered from behind.

"We have to paddle on opposite sides, or we'll start spinning like we did in New Hampshire," Noah suggested, recalling our most recent canoeing effort last August. He was right. And if you don't paddle in synch - as in any relationship, I realized - your canoe will spend a lot of unproductive time bucking up and down instead of propelling forward on an even keel.  

 "Let's count," Noah suggested, so "One, two. One, two," we chanted. Occasionally I yelled "Switch!" Sometimes Noah was willing and sometimes he wasn't, just like old times. Counting got old, so we quit and I just matched his pace.

"Noah? I'll tell you when to switch, okay?" I tried. Canoeing seems a lot like parenting. We can see the big picture. Kids may rail against us from time to time - and even be right occasionally - but it's still our job to call the shots and to steer.

We finally got a rhythm going. "This is fun," Noah said, and it was!

Like parenting, canoeing also requires endurance.

Up ahead I could see people exiting the water and carrying their canoes...

"They're carrying their canoes?" I blanched, wondering how this was gonna work since our canoe-carrying pit crew was …

 "Jennifer DuBose and Noah DuBose of Batavia! Welcome!" someone announced over the P.A. system as we dragged ourselves and our heavy canoe up the embankment.

Honest to God, there was a moment when I reflexively looked around as if hoping for a porter to ferry our canoe for us, but then it occurred to me: these people can't help, this is a race! Re-energized and a little giddy - and feeling like contestants on that television show, "The Amazing Race" - we quickly sucked down the water they offered, hauled our canoe down the stone steps on the other side of the dam and jumped back into our canoe.

***

When people are tired, sometimes a Zen approach - a sort of going with the flow - is called for. Instead of barking commands and insisting he switch, I eventually decided Noah ought to simply paddle until he got tired, and then just switch sides. A slightly stronger paddler, I just switched whenever he did, to compensate. That way - when I absolutely had to issue orders, like when we headed for an obstacle - he was more likely to heed them. I had to pick my battles, just like in parenting.

We picked up our pace when Noah suddenly noticed that we were gaining on a couple from our heat who'd left us in the dust at the start. We quietly paddled our brains out and passed them on our way to the finish line.

"We smoked it!" Noah exclaimed, as we cruised under the flags. We still had to haul our canoe out of the water - up a hill even steeper than the one we dragged it up before - but "Wow, we're feeling stronger now!" we said in unison, no doubt buoyed by a surge of 'We-did-it!' adrenaline.

I am so proud of us, and what a blast! Our time was 1:10:59. We placed seventh in our division, but I'm just so glad we finished. What's more, we never tipped over, never got totally moored on a spit of dirt or rocks and only spun around once.

"Mom, I might want to do this next year," Holly excitedly said (music to my ears), as she and Todd walked with us across the bridge to McCullough Park for the party. Noah's already strategizing about how we can better our time next year and win a trophy.

 "This is a great day," my tired boy announced on the car ride home.

Indeed it was.

Water, check. Sunscreen, check. Sunglasses, check. But "Oooh, I forgot to Google 'canoeing,'" I winced, as my husband backed the car out of the driveway. I'd hoped to soak up some last-minute tips on how to avoid tipping … Noah and I had canoed before, but never in a race - and certainly not for six miles. But we were pumped, ready or not.

We pulled into the Batavia VFW parking lot where the shorter leg of the 49th Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race on the Fox River was to launch. The kids hopped out as I finished applying my makeup.

"Hang on guys, gimme a sec," I said, wielding my mascara wand.

"You don't need makeup to canoe," Noah commented dryly.

"Yeah, but I wanna look cute in case they have to fish me outta the river," I mumbled.

***

"Mom, we have some competition," Noah whispered, gesturing toward a cluster of boys and their parents, "and someone's stretching," he added. "Yeah, we ought to do that," I replied and laughed as we both immediately did a few quick stretches in the check-in line.

Next it was time to select our rental canoe. But how to choose?

"Which color's faster?" I joked with the guy in charge. He steered us toward the fiberglass models. Noah picked a red one, and then we donned our life jackets. A last-minute potty-break and we were ready, more or less.

But first we had to get our canoe to the launch area. Canoes are a lot heavier than kayaks, so I was glad my husband Todd and daughter Holly were on hand to help.

 "I'm gonna puke," Noah said, as we waited our turn to launch. I had butterflies in my stomach too, until I noticed that a kayak outfitted like a Pirate ship and a little tyke in a 'police' kayak were in our heat. This would be fun. The weather was perfect and we even had a tailwind. What could go wrong?

***

"Hey, that's Devil's Cave," Noah said, pointing toward the left bank of the river as we paddled past the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora.

"Looks different from the water, huh?" Things do look different when you look at them from a different perspective, I thought, and the metaphors just kept on coming. Funny what the mind does in novel situations.

Noah sat in front and I steered from behind.

"We have to paddle on opposite sides, or we'll start spinning like we did in New Hampshire," Noah suggested, recalling our most recent canoeing effort last August. He was right. And if you don't paddle in synch - as in any relationship, I realized - your canoe will spend a lot of unproductive time bucking up and down instead of propelling forward on an even keel.  

 "Let's count," Noah suggested, so "One, two. One, two," we chanted. Occasionally I yelled "Switch!" Sometimes Noah was willing and sometimes he wasn't, just like old times. Counting got old, so we quit and I just matched his pace.

"Noah? I'll tell you when to switch, okay?" I tried. Canoeing seems a lot like parenting. We can see the big picture. Kids may rail against us from time to time - and even be right occasionally - but it's still our job to call the shots and to steer.

We finally got a rhythm going. "This is fun," Noah said, and it was!

Like parenting, canoeing also requires endurance.

Up ahead I could see people exiting the water and carrying their canoes...

"They're carrying their canoes?" I blanched, wondering how this was gonna work since our canoe-carrying pit crew was …

 "Jennifer DuBose and Noah DuBose of Batavia! Welcome!" someone announced over the P.A. system as we dragged ourselves and our heavy canoe up the embankment.

Honest to God, there was a moment when I reflexively looked around as if hoping for a porter to ferry our canoe for us, but then it occurred to me: these people can't help, this is a race! Re-energized and a little giddy - and feeling like contestants on that television show, "The Amazing Race" - we quickly sucked down the water they offered, hauled our canoe down the stone steps on the other side of the dam and jumped back into our canoe.

***

When people are tired, sometimes a Zen approach - a sort of going with the flow - is called for. Instead of barking commands and insisting he switch, I eventually decided Noah ought to simply paddle until he got tired, and then just switch sides. A slightly stronger paddler, I just switched whenever he did, to compensate. That way - when I absolutely had to issue orders, like when we headed for an obstacle - he was more likely to heed them. I had to pick my battles, just like in parenting.

We picked up our pace when Noah suddenly noticed that we were gaining on a couple from our heat who'd left us in the dust at the start. We quietly paddled our brains out and passed them on our way to the finish line.

"We smoked it!" Noah exclaimed, as we cruised under the flags. We still had to haul our canoe out of the water - up a hill even steeper than the one we dragged it up before - but "Wow, we're feeling stronger now!" we said in unison, no doubt buoyed by a surge of 'We-did-it!' adrenaline.

I am so proud of us, and what a blast! Our time was 1:10:59. We placed seventh in our division, but I'm just so glad we finished. What's more, we never tipped over, never got totally moored on a spit of dirt or rocks and only spun around once.

"Mom, I might want to do this next year," Holly excitedly said (music to my ears), as she and Todd walked with us across the bridge to McCullough Park for the party. Noah's already strategizing about how we can better our time next year and win a trophy.

 "This is a great day," my tired boy announced on the car ride home.

Indeed it was.

 

 
 







 
 
 
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