I was looking in my files to see when I converted to a digital camera, and knew it was immediatley after I took my grandson, Evan, out on a canoe. It's not something either of us will ever forget! As a result of my search I re-read the piece I did on the expedition and thought it had some merit. It was published in The Sun on July 28th 2004.
I rather envy people who are good with children. I consider them to be fortunate. For myself, I have always been wary of the smaller of our species. I quite like new born babies – well not exactly completely new born – more after a few days, once the wrinkles have ironed out.
I find new babies quite fascinating; particularly when one considers where they have been domiciled for the last nine months or so. It amazes me to consider the potential of their lives, where they might end up, and what talents they might provide to mankind; also they sleep a lot.
Once infants are able to escape the confines of the crib or playpen, I tend to retire from active duty, as I’m never quite sure what to do with them. They are extremely self-centered, selfish, and demanding – all traits which I enjoy myself. I therefore consider them to be serious competition.
I think I am generally better at the ‘being with children’ game with my grandchildren than I was with my own offspring. After all, grandparenting can be as simple as filling them up with sugar and returning them to their parents, if you’re lucky. Parenting on the other hand is a far more serious responsibility and the results of one’s efforts much more likely to revisit one.
My eldest grandson has just reached the second age of acceptability as far as I’m concerned. He has just turned nine, and has seemed to have forgiven me for getting in the way of immediate access to his grandmother, from whom all blessings flow. We can sit for spells of time without jabbering away at each other and he is beginning to experience things in his life which are actually interesting. He even told me who will win the presidential election this year, which I found of interest. We did not discuss this, as I feel at his age, there are some things from which he should be protected.
Even though Evan has reached this small stage in his life - that of being acceptable to his much older relative – I am still grateful for an opportunity to experience something with him that will not bore us both.
Living in the mountains is a wonderful place for such inspiration, and the good people of the Discovery Center are an enthusiastic source for a number of ideas. So it was with some anticipation that my grandson and I went on their ever popular canoe trip around Fawnskin Bay. And it was quite nice that he had had more experience of this activity than I. (My last attempt at Canoeing was in Hawaii, and caused my wife to nearly strain her innards laughing, as I ignored the advice to be careful of the slippery stones and fell so many times in the river, that I was the one who strained something.)
Determined to listen more carefully this time, and not go for a repeat of the previous experience, we met up with eight other canoeists at the Center at 4.45 p.m., where the instructor had an impressive knowledge of the area. After a short introduction into the arcane ways of the paddler, he safely navigated us through the flat waters of the bay.
Paddling is quite hard work especially if the front seat is taken by a small boy, who can get bored quickly if there is not a flickering screen within immediate view. However, there were many stops along the way and several opportunities to look at the plentiful wildlife that lives along the shore.
The spectacular upset caused by the loss and somewhat disastrous attempt to retrieve a paddle is the subject of perhaps another essay, but suffice it to say that the water is never deep, to which I can personally attest.
I hope the experience of a late Sunday afternoon will remain with Evan as a pleasant one with his “Grumpy Grandad,” as I am occasionally known. We only have a few short years before the onslaught of puberty strikes us. This is a time where the residents of my native England raid their savings accounts, and any dark corners of forgotten drawers, to find the funds necessary to send their progenies off to boarding schools.
This alleviates them from the horrors of the future years and allows professionals to cope with the untimely rush of testosterone. After a decent interval, the recipients of such care are then returned to their anxious parents with decent table manners, a measurable reduction in acne, and a halfway chance of carrying on a conversation.
In my own family’s case, we have a little time for more adventures like canoeing, before we have to face that challenge.