What to do…what to do…
This summer, our family will be spread over various parts of the world as they explore their passions, work and travel. Our eldest, who will head to university in the fall and really needs to work full time, has chosen to stay home all summer to do just that. Our son T just left for Africa – a 5 week long trip blending two grade 12 courses with amazing travel experiences and volunteering and our daughter will be dancing all over North America during the summer months.
With everyone leaving and me feeling panicky that I wasn’t going to have them all in one place for a summer vacay this year, I wanted to plan a day to spend together that was special – before everyone took off for the summer.
Let me tell you – when they are young – planning these days is easy peasy…sure you have to pack a bag with a change of clothes, maybe include the promise of ice cream but picking a spot is simple. Calgary offers so much in the way of family activities. And I think, once they get into their 20’s and start to create lives of their own, it will get easier again. In a few more years, suggesting a trip to Heritage Park will be fun again. Right now it means eye rolls and “mom, we aren’t little anymore.”
As they get older, the choices get trickier. Calgary Stampede? Awesome – but at their age, they don’t want to be seen going on rides, or playing games with their parents. There is an entire midway to explore – with girls in short shorts – and we are not invited… If we hit the chucks, or the rodeo – we don’t really get a chance to talk. I wanted more.
So – what do we do that is more than just going out for dinner together – that will force them to talk to one another, that will have almost zero outside distractions and that will take up a good part of the day?
And then I found it – I hit pay dirt – the perfect activity. What corrals the family more tightly than 5 of you in a raft on the Bow – floating for several hours – to tunes of their choosing??
So with the idea still percolating, I broached it with my family. I braced myself for groans, eye rolling and perhaps that look they give you when they want to tell you you are NOT cool, without actually using the words. But guess what? They LOVED it. So, slightly self satisfied I set about putting the plan in motion.
As much as our family is active, and busy – we are also kind of lazy – and I mean this in the nicest way. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to spend my morning either renting a raft from somewhere, hauling it and all the paddles, dry bags, and life jackets into my car or purchasing all the necessary items to get this show on the road. SO – I hit up social media and found The Paddle Station – a company that takes care of all of this for you and all you need to do is show up. SIGN ME UP!!
I checked out the website – they offer a station in Shouldice Park – where you launch and a drop off station, about 2 – 3 hours down the river at St. Patrick’s Island. Rental includes the raft (you can pick your size), life jackets and a dry bag with an emergency kit – which FYI – is required by law if you are going to take watercraft on the river. You can reserve your time, sign waivers and pay all online. Super simple and efficient. I double checked the weather for sun, picked our time, did the paperwork and was reserved and confirmed all in about 5 minutes. As much as you can reserve a time, when we got there, they commented that they had quite a few walk-ins that day. So if you are a last minute, fly by the seat of your pants type – this could work too.
Family in the car, portable speaker and bag of treats in tow, we headed out to Shouldice. It was a busy day and cars were parked everywhere so we started thinking we were going to have trouble finding a spot…when UREKA – we see the Paddle Station sign, complete with a “guest parking” area. UMMM – I HATE looking for parking, so I was already a fan 🙂
We were greeted by a lovely crew who were efficient, friendly and very busy. They gave us the run down, some safety tips, and we were on our way.
I have to say, the two hours it took us to float down to St. Patrick’s Island created some of the funnest, most heartwarming memories I’m sure I will have all summer. Teasing dad, making fun of mom and bugging the girls interspersed with conversations about the future, about life, about Cannabis?? YUP – we covered a lot of ground. AND – we saw our city from a different perspective. Being on the water, we had very few glances at phones. I would like to say it is because they were having so much fun with Mom and Dad, but really I think the fear of losing that precious technology at the bottom of the Bow was big deterrent.
In addition to conversation, there were parts of the river we needed to navigate a bit, so there was a little teamwork (AKA fighting) involved, some colourful language and a ton of laughs.
With instructions from the Paddle Station staff, we paddled in to a little lagoon on St. Patricks Island and left our boat with them. It was really well marked and the staff signs you out on an iPad – returns just as efficient as pick up. No hassle, no fuss, no muss.
Just to make the afternoon complete, once we got back on solid ground, we ventured across the bridge into Inglewood where we had our choice of at least a dozen great restaurants, shops and browsing.
As a mom of teens, I long for these moments. Knowing that we have just a little more time left with them, I am consumed with trying to make that time meaningful and to have the conversations I feel we need to have. I hope the day meant as much to them as it did to my husband and I. I hope they will take these memories and hold on to them through the rest of their summer – through the rest of their lives and know how much they are loved and how they are part of a family that will be there for them, that will have their back no matter what. Because, at the end of the day, family is everything.
It was a pretty cool trip down the Bow – and I think it was said more than once – “Why haven’t we done this before??”