My family and I recently returned from a trip to Ireland. It was the first time we had undertaken a vacation all together since I was a reckless little boy (although some members of my family would dispute that this has changed). Those carefree times were little Patrick’s glory days, filled predominately with tree climbing, various ill-advised entrepreneurial ventures (i.e. selling sand at the beach), elaborate building projects, and a major obsession of mine for many years, attempting to perform a front flip and land on my feet. You will note the choice of word: attempting. Alas, despite hours spent launching myself head-over-heels into snow banks – the process was significantly more painful in the summer months – I was never able to master the skill (except of course for that one, glorious, time when I set up a series of mattress launch pads and just barely managed it – but that didn’t really count, what can I say, I’m a purist).
My mother was particularly intrigued with this unique passion of mine, perhaps because it reminded her of her own youth. Always up for a challenge, she enlisted my expertise in teaching her the lost art of being a kid. We entitled these sessions “Kid Lessons” and I was quite thrilled to have a captive audience to pass on what I did best: living carefree, finding unabashed joy in things that were mundane for adults, and above all, my accumulated wealth of knowledge in the front flip department. Sadly, my mom was also never destined to complete the front flip, despite what I recall now as a fairly impressive attempt or two during a snowy walk through the neighbourhood one evening.
At the time, I loved the attention of being able to instruct an adult in my esoteric interests and was made to feel listened to and important. When I look back now, I can better understand my mom’s desire to see the world through the eyes of a child. While I thought she wanted coaching in various acrobatic manoeuvres, what she really wanted was a bit more abstract: time with her son, a break from grown-up worries, and a reminder to enjoy the simple things.
While in Ireland, we happened to be staying in the popular surfing town of Lahinch on the west coast. With the temperature soaring into the mid-teens, the prospect of getting in the water, much less enjoying oneself once in, seemed like a far-off possibility. But while my dad and sister discussed the various circumstances in which they would consider going for a swim (i.e. when hell freezes over), Mom and I caught each others knowing glances and I knew there was no stopping her. My mom has a particular weak spot for swimming in oceans, and, living smack in the middle of Ontario, the opportunity rarely presents itself. Shivering already in my sweater and rain jacket, I knew I was going in as well. It seems my ‘lessons’ had worked.
We ended up spending two afternoons together enjoying the waves, her on a body board and me surfing (well, trying to surf). Despite the ominous weather, and with the help of wetsuits, we were both pretty convinced that we were actually warmer in the water than out of it in our jackets. Those few hours were by far some of the highlights of the trip, it had been months since I had laughed so much. In a wonderful way, we were able to have another “Kid Lesson” together, both equally sharing in a sense of awe for the ocean as we forgot all about our grown-up worries.
So thanks mom for giving me a “Kid Lesson” of my own!