It's come to my attention that some fairly experienced sailors of my acquaintance hold that taking children out of their shoreside routine of friends, schools and society may be detrimental to their development. While this may be true in some cases, particularly where the parents are, to be frank, self-centered, I hope this isn't to be the case with my wife and myself. In many respects, our proposed trip is as much about what we hope to provide our young son with by way of worldly experience as it is for ourselves and our own ambitions.
To reiterate: My wife and I are in fact proposing to do a circ during the five-year stretch (2009-14) when our boy will be between the ages of 8 to 13. If we were to find it detrimental to his development...or even if we just found we didn't like it...we would stop, but whatever the outcome, we would plan to be quite sociable with other cruising families. In fact, we will seek them out. We also intend to stop once or twice for school terms in foreign countries so that our son can retain a sense of what a typical schoolroom is like. We understand that after two to three hours of "boat schooling" per day, one-to-one, he may find this a bit of an adjustment, but we hope that the cruising lifestyle will accustom him to the two-headed beast of both routine and novelty.
It must be noted that even though our boy is currently just short of six years of age, he is very aware of environmental issues. We have discussed fairly frankly, if by necessity in a simple way, our desire to show him the world before it changes, which we believe will happen in our lifetime, and his. He is aware that we are going as a family, not that he is going on Mum and Dad's adventure as spare crew.
Yes, he will not have a "typical" North American upbringing. Neither my wife and I had a particularly typical childhood, and we have some strong, if sometimes differing, criticisms of how our society (Canadian, comfortable, conformist) elects to raise kids, particularly children coming from the upper middle class to which we belong.
We hope that being able to dive on a still-living reef, being able to fish and cook his own dinner, being able to speak other languages, being able to see how other peoples live and being self-reliant enough to help his folks run a small voyaging boat will compensate, if only in a small way, not knowing the latest Nintendo games, not getting driven in an SUV to soccer practice, not getting barraged by commercials on TV and not rotting of boredom in a classroom where the aim is not to convey knowledge, or to even learn how to think critically, but to "feel good about oneself" and to "cherish diversity". Meanwhile, we keep our children infantilized with crap merchandise and crap ideas, until puberty, at which point we bombard them with sexual imagery. Either way, I think this is a culture that hates its youth a little bit, and that this hate is expressed through marketing-driven morality.
We are stupid and literal parents, really: We think the best wayfor our son to learn about "diversity" is to expose him to diverse things, places and people. We think the best way to teach him to think critically is to get him to make the wind and the waves and the creaks of the boat his mentors in judging when to reef and when to run off. We think the best way to learn of the world is to travel it, and we are working extremely hard to achieve that goal as a family.
I am shortly purchasing a sailing dinghy that a nine-year old will be able to assemble and sail. I am doing this in part because I suspect that by the age of nine or ten, my son will be responsible and mature enough to visit other boats by himself, and to stand a half-watch in the daytime. By 13, assuming we haven't killed him and ourselves through our horrible and abusive parenting, we may have a decent, self-reliant and confident young man, who can make a case for leaving the boat, or for continuing with his tedious and foolish parents. We'll just have to see, I suppose, if we can wring a few minutes of actual fun from this Voyage of the Damned we have planned.
My kid is learning to swim and to speak Spanish...more or less. His nautical terminology is improving. Next summer, he'll take Junior Sailing courses in a fleet of Optis. He already is "personalizing" his sea berth and is showing a great deal of interest in helming. He is starting to "own" the idea of world cruising, which is gratifying and terrifying, because he has a vague but persisting expectation that we will leave shortly before he turns eight. Daddy has a lot of work ahead of him.
Whether he'll survive his parents' neglect and abuse by absenting him from the rich pageant of affluent first-world culture is another matter, I guess.