Joy Lessons Learned from Not My Kid

Out of a group of 6, we’d lost three people, but to be totally honest, two had been lost causes since the beginning.  Let’s be real, even on the calmest day, kayaking Black Canyon’s 12 mile route, isn’t a non-athletic feat, and doing it against 30 mile per hour headwinds doesn’t make it easier.  When the father who had never kayaked before and his 6 year old son piled into their own 2 person kayak, it was either going to be amazing or … difficult, and, when the headwinds hit us rounding the first turn, it was clearly not going to be the first option.

Black Canyon Wide Las Vegas - Vagabond3In less than four miles, three of us had beached or kayaks on a sandy bank and were watching as our guide poked out from around an outcropping way up stream, the father and son team tethered in tow.  Even for a daily guide, paddling for two kayaks and three people is a huge strain.  None of us were surprised when the troupe pulled up to our shore with our guide asking if there was a way we could maybe reconfigure the groups – or more specifically would I mind paddling the six-year-old the remaining eight miles.

I couldn’t refuse, especially when the German mound of muscle that had been waiting on the bank with me volunteered.  Not only did I get first dibs on speeding out group up and possibly making time for more stops along with way, but I was also given the chance to show off my kayak muscles.  Which, while I wasn’t sure where they were, I was hoping I could find them…

Immediately after setting back out, I was hit with the realization that a two man kayak is much more difficult to pilot, the fact that the wind had gotten more fierce, and, worst of all, to really show off how strong I was, I couldn’t fall behind, especially behind the Deutsch Dynamo.  Really though, none of that mattered.

I looked to the front of the boat and at the back of the kid’s head.  If this trip had been me and my dad, I would have already heard enough cursing to write an Allen Ginsburg poem.  I was hoping he was still as excited about the trip as he had been when we started out.

Kid and Paddle - Vagabond3

“Do you like kayaking?” I asked

“Yeah, but I want to be first.  We’ve been last the whole time, let’s be first.” said with a smile.

That was the start of the final 3/4 of the trip, and eight miles later I was climbing out of a two man kayak having really enjoyed myself, but it wasn’t because I see the best of every situation or because I tried really hard to make it fun.  I enjoyed myself because this weird situation of paddling someone else’s kid through the canyon let me enjoy it, and here’s what I learned about joy when I tried to figure out why I wasn’t miserable:

“Yes, and…” is a Life Lesson : We are all social, even those of us who want to be left alone started out as social creatures.  We are all looking to connect.  When my passenger began to talk about what he saw in the rocks, I just agreed that there could be shapes in the rocks and added what I saw.  It didn’t have to be interesting or creative, I was just letting him know that I was open to what he was offering me, and from there we were playing a game.

Look out for yourself : While we were working out way down the canyon, I kept thinking how I would feel about this trip if I was with Jade.  I came to the conclusion that overall, I probably wouldn’t be having as much fun because I would be worrying so much about her enjoying the experience.  That’s when I realized, if this kid didn’t have a great time, ultimately I didn’t care, I was only invested in his happiness as far as he was invested in his own happiness.  For me, it’s easy feel like I have to make people happy, but sometimes letting people be responsible for their own happiness can actually increase personal happiness, and inversely, looking after your own happiness can make those around you happier.

Father and Son Getting into Boat - Vagabond3Relaxation doesn’t come when you’re in over your head : On the way back to LasVegas, the Dad (who was laughing and joking around) let the group know that it was his mother-in-law’s idea and she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  It’s easy to see where her intentions came from, what an exciting day for her grandson, but she didn’t consider the huge burden she was placing on her son-in-law.  Feeling overwhelmed or out-of-your-depth directly impacts the fun/relaxation one is able to experience.  While sometimes stretching beyond your comfort zone is great, it’s also a challenge. Even if something seems like a great idea, it important to think about the intention before moving forward.  In this instance, it was important to consider which was more important, the grandson seeing Black Canyon or the father and son having bonding time.

Gifts make everyone happy : No matter how big or small, a little gift of some sort always makes the receiver feel appreciated and loved.  After all the kayaks were pulled up onto the final beach, we all headed over to the marina for cold snacks.  As I walked over, the buff German guy waved me down and offered me a beer.  There’s nothing quite like a guy buying another guy a beer.  It’s impossible not to feel at least a little bit cooler.

Follow your own happiness : We all have our own unique sense of excitement or ‘joy triggers’.  Don’t be afraid to express your views or chase the aspects of a situation that are most pleasing and inspiring to you.  As I mentioned before, being responsible for your own happiness can make everyone’s experience better.  For me, one of the biggest highlights of the trip was when the kid pointed out mountain goats that I had totally missed.  I love animals, so becoming engaged in seeing the animals gave me a wealth of fun facts and other stories that were interesting for me to share with him.

For more on the Black Canyon Experience, check out The Biggest Secret in Vegas.