A couple months ago, during our hurricane season break, I had the opportunity to attend a get together from my middle school in Brazil and reconnected with friends I had not seen for 30 years. There was a common amazement of how easy and sweet it was to reconnect with peers from such a special period in our lives – like reconnecting with the essence of what we were.
During this event, a friend of mine asked: “What about your kids, what are they going to reconnect with when they are our age? What will they have instead of their middle school class? How do you feel about them not having the opportunity of something this regathering?” I am not sure my friend made explicit this last question…but for sure it was placed there in my mind.
I immediately went on balancing the trade offs of having the lifestyle we currently have. Yes, they miss a couple of things… and yes, they gain many others. As mostly any decision we take in life, we can’t have it all – there are always pros and cons.
Yet the question remained with me for a couple of weeks…as the “socializing of our kids” was (and still is) one of the most important aspects Alex and I are constantly considering in our boat life. Before we moved to the boat, we looked carefully to what other family boats reported – how kids were able to socialize, find friends and develop connections in any part of the world, while moving. It sounded special but yet uncertain.
Now 3 years “on the road” (I mean “sea”), here are some of my perspectives and learning from our experience.
Yes, the kids experience isolation from time to time (during long passages or simply when we stay on anchorages by ourselves). And they don’t like it when it is too long. And not matter how much we, parents, try to compensate and be their buddies, we can’t …they need their peers around. As adults need it too :-).
On the other hand…the kids also experience strong belonging. The kids connect with other local kids in the places we go. But they need more than than that – they need belonging. Not surprisingly, there is an adorable community of kids living on boats, and they easily connect and relate to each other experiences. We became “hunters” of boats with kids – through social media and emails we always learn about other boats with kids coming into the region… We plan our routes and trips to maximize the time for the kids being together.
They are open to engage and cherish friendships. From experiencing moments of isolation and constant change, the kids deeply understand the value of cherishing friendships. They have learned to be more accepting and they engage pretty easily with other kids from 6 to 16 years old (our are currently 11 and 13). Many times they have played together without talking the same language. They enthusiastically receive each other every time they reconnect.
Not all is perfect. There are differences from time to time, but there is willingness to work them around as well.
They don’t waste time. It is amazing – when we stop in an anchorage and spot a “new” kid in another boat, it does not take more than 5 min for the kids to jump into the water and start playing together. Sleepovers will most likely happen in the same day…. And its lovely to note that all parents are invested so much as we are in creating space and opportunities for them to be together. It is different from the rhythm and pace it takes to build strong relationships at land….as we are all aware we can’t waste time as we are not sure how long we will be sharing the same anchorage.
They get the full pack of relationships – the good and the bad. As I said before, it is not all rosy. There are challenges from time to time: emotions get in the way, there are misunderstandings and we need to support them in dealing with certain situations… And I consider that healthy and needed – we grow through relationships.
At the end, they develop strong bonds. A few months ago, I remember us doing a land trip and as I spotted some kids around, I instantly said to Paulo, “Don’t you want to go to play with them?” to which he responded: “Mom, I don’t need more friends, I just want to meet the ones I already have”. I confess it gave me confidence to hear that from my son. He finds himself plenty of friends, he has this precious treasure (and he just wants more time with them).
Luckily since we left La Cruz in Mexico, some vessels like ‘Enough’ and ‘Sangvind’ have been a recurring beloved company. A few others we have met frequently and hope to meet again in the seas soon – ‘Coastal Drifter’, ‘Terrapin’, ‘Cape D’ and ‘Muktuk’. A few others like ‘Sarita’, ‘Adagio’, ‘Day Break’, ‘KantaAnae’, ‘Shawnigan’, ‘Bateau’, ‘Nogal’, ‘YOLO’, ‘Agamere’ and ‘Dulce Vida’ – where extremely present at some point in our journey and have now followed different routes. There is excitement with new friendship with ‘Be and Be’ and ‘Skylark’.
All of them are part of our extended sailing family and we hold deeply in our hearts. The kids constantly talk about them and I consider them their mid school network.
If I go back to my friend’s question that trigged this writing, I would say with confidence that they have a very special class of mid school friends to remember and cherish for growing up together!! I have no doubts they will carry some strong friendships for life out of this experience. Of course, it might be a bit challenging for getting all of them together, but …Come on! It took us more than 30 years to reunite with colleagues that lived in the same city (some even in the same neighborhood)! I am sure they would cross and ocean for theirs.