What’s In It For You

Published on October 11th, 2012

This article by Saving Sailing author Nick Hayes first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Spinsheet.

Children benefit emotionally and socially from ritual. PhD researchers Mary Spagnola and Barbara Fiese at the University of Washington write, “naturally occurring family routines and meaningful rituals provide both a predictable structure that guides behavior and an emotional climate that supports early development.”

But kids learn by experience. Sometimes experiences teach skills or consequences. Other times, things out of control turn experiences into adventures, and teach about fear, risk, determination and things larger than ourselves.

Sailing, of course, can provide both the ritual and the experience, and of course, the adventure. So it is simply an ideal instrument of parenting; a way to make great kids.

But this article won’t be about the kids. It’s about you. What’s in it for you if you make sailing with kids your family ritual and experience? What if you dropped enough other things – soccer, baseball, the long commute, your mani/pedi appointment – and made enough time, over and over, to go sailing with your kids?

Let me start by talking about what family sailing is not.

Sailing with kids isn’t a game. It’s a way of being. You might play games while sailing with kids, and it will be fun and frustrating for everyone, as any game can be. But imagine a soccer match where you’re not stuck cheering on the sidelines, but sprint down the field, take a clothesline pass from your daughter and headbutt the winning goal. The crowd goes wild. Daughter hoists dad on shoulders. Well, perhaps that’s a stretch, but you get the point. Moms and dads who sail with kids have a chance to be heroes. And who better?

Sailing with kids isn’t dangerous. Not sailing with kids is. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that American children spend more time consuming media than any other non-school activity, and the result is that most kids won’t develop important problem solving and social skills, and their health and welfare is at severe risk. But as a parent, how does one limit TV or video game time? The virtual world is virtually everywhere right? No. Nothing is virtual on a sailboat. Like a remote island, a sailboat is refuge of reality. An actual place with only real things, like wind, water and people working together to make something from them.

From the parent’s perspective, sailing is the perfect tool to distract from screens and attract to new things. Sail with kids and they’ll be too busy, bored, excited, or happy to miss media. Since there isn’t any available anyway, they’ll inevitably self-determine. They might make up a game or sing for entertainment. Or maybe you will. We often break out Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls.” And I play a mean air guitar. — Read on.

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