A couple of weekends ago, the three of us trundled down to Virginia to visit TB in a brief window before final exams. We also met his new girlfriend for the first time. For reasons I can’t quite reconstruct, we decided that it would be fun to take the whole group canoeing in a nearby river.
I’ve never been accused of being particularly coordinated. That’s particularly true in water. So naturally, TW and I capsized in the canoe.
For the full effect, we were both dressed in land clothes: jeans, sneakers, etc.
The river was somewhere around six feet deep where we capsized, but that’s slightly misleading. The bottom, as I quickly discovered, was soft silt. As soon as I put any weight on it, it collapsed. (The Girl, safely ensconced in her own kayak, tried heroically to contain her laughter.) We managed to sort of dog-paddle the canoe towards a bank, hoping that we’d get solid footing there, but it was both steep and soft, leading to what everyone else present considered a riotous comedy of errors as we tried to right the ship.
With help from TB, we eventually got the boat flipped back over, the water out, and ourselves back to where we started. We looked terrible and smelled worse, ensuring that we made a memorable first impression on TB’s girlfriend.
Parenting achievement, unlocked.
After we got back to the hotel and cleaned up, I had a moment to reflect on what had just happened. In the first moment that I went underwater, can you guess the first thought that went through my mind?
“Oh, no! This may be it!!!”
“Ah, crap. Now I have to deal with _this_.”
The answer, of course, is c. I reacted to it the same way I react to a paper jam in the printer: a grumble, followed by doing what had to be done. It didn’t occur to me that anything truly bad would happen; I knew viscerally that we’d get out of the situation soon enough. Which we did. It wasn’t especially pretty, but we did.
In retrospect, I’m a little bit proud of that. Catastrophizing wouldn’t have helped; we had our hands full just trying to get the boat flipped over without having to deal with someone freaking out. And treating it as a thrill would have been perverse at best.
Sometimes, that’s how administration works. The current shifts, and you suddenly find yourself having to stand on ground that immediately caves under pressure. But you know that you can, and will, get help and right the ship. It might not be pretty, and you might lose a perfectly good pair of shoes and some measure of dignity, but you’ll get it done. Because it has to be done.
Later this week is Brookdale’s graduation. Another group of students made it to shore. I plan to wear dry shoes and enjoy every minute of it.