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Monday, April 8, 2019

Boat Monkeys

Sunday at the beach, Boca Chica
Today I wished I were young again and that my children were still little. I didn’t wish it all day long, mind you, just for a little while.  Usually, I’m fairly content with my age in life. Not that I wouldn’t like to have the energy to play volleyball again. My physical body, I’m afraid, does not share my brain’s enthusiasm for the sport.  But that is not what makes me wish I were thirty years younger.  
Our neighbors at ZarPar Marina, Boca Chica

What did make me wish for the younger days was the four families that sailed into the marina here in Boca Chico, D.R. a couple days ago. Four couples and their children. On one boat a diminutive girl of 12 years with not even a smidgin of that cynicism that one often sees with girls as they move into adolescence.  Friendly, and not afraid to look us in the eye. The kind of child that relishes in catching an adult offguard, which she did. It was exquisite.  She sweetly asked my husband to spell “cup” after saying “I”. And then she giggled uproariously. I miss those kind of jokes.
Children playing on boats

On the second boat, 6 and 10 year-old boys with buzz cuts, shepherded along by their tattooed, freckled and curly-haired parents and an elderly dog. On the third boat, a bouncy 11 year old brunette accompanied her parents, and on the fourth boat? A German family with four children. Two boys, 5 and 8 years old with shoulder-length blonde hair and their 2 year-old twin sisters. Their parents took advantage of a government-sponsored two year maternity leave after the birth of their twins. The maternity leave has ended but they can’t quite get themselves to return to their old life just yet. They are enjoying this one too much.
This little guy wants nothing to do with the water.

This vibrant whirlwind of children and their lithe parents took me back to a time in my life when I tried to see the world through my children’s eyes. The sun was a little brighter then and laughter came easily. I remember feeling good about being a parent of elementary school-age children. There was less of the anxiety that I would discover later, when my confidence as a parent of adolescents waned a bit.

The sand-covered girl is laughing
Today, two of the families herded themselves up and ambled off together to have a day of sightseeing. I had set up my sewing machine outside under the gazebo and watched the group walk by, calling out their goodbyes to me and a “Have a fun day” from the 12 year old girl who seems fascinated by my sewing. 
My sewing machine set up under a gazebo

Suddenly, it was almost like I was 35 again and I wanted to take my own children out for an adventure of some kind. I wanted to feel that vigor and enthusiasm again, the way that I felt with having a surprise planned for them.  Maybe something they’d never seen or done before, like going to a circus, holding a gecko, or just stopping for ice cream on a drive along the Mississippi without them having to ask. 
Learning how to make and fly a kite

Today strong memories surged in me, of playing with them.  And of teaching them about things that interested them. Sometimes riding in the car it was, “tell me about the time before there were white men here.”   Or, “tell me about when you were little on the farm.” Their curious minds soaked up my stories. I remember that I enjoyed that.  But in retrospect, that time in my life was absolutely glorious! If only I’d known then.
These teens humored me with a photo of them
wearing their wigs of sargasso weed

 And suddenly here it is, twenty-five years later and those memories are resurrected by watching this passel of children running on the docks, finding new friends, climbing in the rigging of their boats and just being children. My husband likes to refer to the children in the rigging as “boat monkeys.” During the mid-day, the children’s presence is less apparent. They are being home-schooled by their parents on their boats. 
Swinging in the rigging

We’ve noticed some things about the children being raised on cruising sailboats. We’ve remarked on how polite the children are; how comfortable they seem while interacting with adults, not bashful or embarrassed to be noticed. We’ve remarked to each other about how sophisticated the adolescents language is. It’s refreshing to hear a child speak in complete sentences without relying upon faddish phrases such as, “it was like, you know, like…. suh-weet!” 
This giuy is really good at this

I had never considered home schooling my children, but I cannot help but admire these parents who do so. What wonderful adventures the children are having in addition to the academic work. I think, or rather, I know that my own children would have soaked up life onboard a sailboat. Experiencing different cultures, climates, foods, adventures. I would have loved sharing all of this with them at that age. 
Every Sunday is like a big festival at the beach, Boca Chico, Dominican Republic

 This cruising life wasn’t an option for us when my children were small. We were in a different boat. And I know that sometimes, maybe even quite often, in the hustle of daily life back then, I didn’t appreciate the “boat” that we were in together. Nevertheless, they grew up well-adjusted and thrived. Well, for a little while today, I revisited those days of curiosity and exploration. And I enjoyed watching these children that live on sailboats. The wish that I were young again faded away. And I returned to the present day gray-haired woman that I am, sewing under the gazebo.
Facing southeast. Puerto Rico is about 100+ miles to the east.


Deb said...

Lovely post. I'm so thankful that our daughter is able to raise four of our grandkids on a boat. I could never homeschool either but I deeply admire those that do.

SV Kintala

womenswrites said...

Wow, this takes me back. I miss those days too. I didn't raise my kids on a boat, but they were both homeschooled. I find most kids who are homeschooled to be better socialized than many of their schooled peers.