Issue: March 2003
Sibling Mutiny

Sunday mornings, as I define them, should be the most laid-back part of the boating weekend. I like to wake up slowly, make coffee, sit in the cockpit or up on the bow and watch the world go by in our little slice of heaven, wherever that might be on the Bay. I might contemplate the pterodactyl mysteries of the blue heron as he yawps by, or briefly consider tossing out a line to see what's making all those baitfish so nervous over there-but then, perhaps not. Too much movement. I chill.

That's my idea anyway. My reality is two rambunctious young water rats who can't wait to start the day, if not with a boisterous swim then perhaps with an aerobic row to the nearest beach. Chill? That's what bedtime is for.

One morning last summer Johnny and I tried a new tack. Swimming was out, since the nettles were in. So we decided to let the kids take the dinghy for a spin. By themselves. Our son Kaeo had worked hard learning to handle the little inflatable. He'd already had several successful untethered solo flights from the mother ship, each time growing more and more confident. Remembering how much I loved dinghying around when I was little, I encouraged his ambition. What I hadn't fully considered, though, was that when I was growing up, my dinghy buddy was my dog. All she cared about was digging, swimming, barking ferociously at the occasional beached clam and finding a nice rotting rockfish to roll in. She was the perfect companion, if you didn't mind eau du damp dog. Kaeo doesn't have it so easy. His dinghy buddy is his little sister. She has the competitive, single-minded will of the two-and-a-half-year-old. And she adores her big brother, which means she wants to do everything he does. Including rowing the dinghy.

Off they went, the two intrepid voyagers, Kaeo at the oars feeling responsible, Kailani watching. Johnny and I grinned at each other, proud and pleased. Look at them go, we thought. (And also, coffee, unspilled! Conversation! Quiet!)

"Kailaaaaani!" The shriek of protest knifed across the morning-still water. A mutiny was afoot. "Kaaaaaeoooh!" she screamed back at him, grabbing for the oars as he desperately tried to regain control of his little ship. The yelling escalated into howling and then tears of rage and frustration. Any idea of peace in the Sunday morning anchorage was history. Every seabird had taken flight, and I imagined our boating neighbors waking up abruptly, slamming into the overhead and cursing whoever was making all that damned noise so early-on a Sunday, no less. That this sibling conflagration was largely the parents' fault (she's our daughter, after all-we should have known she'd want to run things) didn't help. It took him some doing, but Kaeo did get the dinghy back to the boat. In a display of supreme self-control, his little sister did not whack him with an oar. Peace, or a reasonable facsimile, was restored.

As a new boating season approaches, I consider the competitive, single-minded will of the three-and-a-half-year-old, and what that might mean on tranquil Sunday mornings. Anybody got a little inflatable for sale?