Is this big strong lad now.
As we've been sailing this season, I've noticed a change. He's suddenly part of the crew. I mean really part of the crew in a concrete, meaningful way. All of us sailing folk engage our kids in the process of sailing the boat even at the youngest ages. We want to keep them engaged, teach them, help them feel important, all that. But in the end, we are still doing the work and they are along for the ride.
Zach's been sailing aboard our boat and friend's boats since he was a few weeks old. However from the time he could talk and walk sailing has been a big, imaginary adventure for him. He's always taken the perch at the bow where he could bounce and watch out for ships and chatter and dream. Mom and dad would raise sails and tack around races and navigate to gunkholes and troubleshoot rigging issues and once in a while he'd come by and want to "help". But more than anything he was in his own world while we sailed. Narrating an adventure, looking out for pirates, battling invading armadas, looking out for whales and mermaids, barking orders at his crew of scallywags.
This year he's emerged from his dream state and is suddenly very rooted in the reality of sailing the boat. It's bittersweet to say the least. I realize it's developmentally appropriate for children at 7-8-9 years old to make that shift. And of course the sentimental mama in me mourns the loss of that boy deep in his imagination, like when little Jackie Paper stopped coming to see Puff The Magic Dragon.
But I am also excited for this new stage and just as ready as he is. As soon as he knows we're planning to head out, he goes on his own to start closing the correct hatches, securing the few things we need to stow, helping his sister with her life jacket, and getting tools for Doug to do engine checks.
He wants to have a real hand in figuring out our course, adjusting the sails for maximum speed, determining right of way, learning about different types of boats and ships, and of course taking his turn at the helm. Doug was below changing a diaper and I was at the helm when our mainsail had some trouble recently. I was about to holler for Doug, but then realized I didn't have to. "Hey buddy, you take the helm. Steer us straight into the wind while I run to the mast and fix things." And he did. No need to call daddy.
It's all questions, but not those nattering little kid questions that go on and on. He is absorbing, processing, putting his own spin on things, figuring out, retaining. It's like he's truly aboard now and not just along for the ride.
But I am so proud of my big boy and how far he's come and how much more he has to discover.