“Is this all there is?” my 8-year-old son asked forlornly, as if all his hopes and dreams for daring excitement had been dashed to smithereens on the nearby rocks.
I turned to him, smiled and answered, “Yep. Welcome to the Real World, kiddo. It sucks.”
“Is this your first time whitewater rafting?” the friendly guide asked our rag-tag group of family earlier that day.
Two of the group were bonafide professionals, having practically rafted waterfalls down the Amazon.
You know, if there are waterfalls on the Amazon. Hell if I know.
I patted the top of my son’s head and answered the guide’s question with, “I was his age the last time I did this.”
And it was the first time for my son and my husband.
Needless to say, the guide had his work cut out for him. But in that great Can-Do Spirit that helped carve out the American West, he just clapped his hands together and said, “Let’s do this!”
I like it.
But, first things first.
I raised my hand and said, “Since it’s his first time,” pointing at my son, “wouldn’t it be better to have him sit in the middle of the raft. You know, where it’s safe?”
I could practically hear my son’s eyes roll in their sockets before the plaintive “Mooooom” popped out of his mouth.
OK, so the planned trip was to include Class 2 and Class 3 rapids, a middle-of-the-road kinda experience. But it would include bumps. And rocks. And water. Lots of water.
He was only 8 years old.
And my baby.
In the spirit of “Dirty Dancing,” nobody puts baby in a corner.
But you CAN put him in the middle of the boat.
The guide looked at me. Then he looked at my son, with something akin to pity and an “All moms are crazy” nod.
But then he sighed (knowing where his tip was coming from) and said, “Yeah. He can do that.”
My son snarled.
All in all, I was happy.
Soooo not happy.
After about 30 minutes of Class 2 rapids, which included a few bumps and minor splashes, the whining started.
“When can I have a paddle?” my son leaned over to ask me.
“Not this trip,” I answered.
“But why?!” he cried.
“Because we left your paddle back on the bus,” I pointed out.
He gestured toward the rear of the raft where the guide was sitting, “He’s got an extra one.”
“You can’t have that one,” I said.
“But why?!’ he cried again.
Oh, for the love of God. Children.
“Because that’s his extra one, in case someone loses one in the river,” I answered.
“Like that’s gonna happen,” he snarked. “This is boring. Where are the waterfalls?”
And so the next 30 minutes went a little something like this:
“Can I have a paddle?”
“Because I said so.”
Silence for about five seconds. Then....
“Can I have a paddle?”
“I swear to God I will throw you overboard if you open your mouth one more time.”
Sensing a disturbance in the Force, the guide pointed ahead of us and said, “Get ready. The Class 3 section is about to start.”
I nudged my son and smiled, “See? We were just warming up.”
He glared his response. Death rays shot outta his eyes.
I won’t lie to you.
I actually shivered. Which is difficult to do when wearing a splash jacket and a wet suit.
It was just that powerful.
And before I could recover, we entered the narrow shoot of water, dropped over a short ledge and away we went.
It was just exciting enough to elicit a squeal from Mr. Grumpypants and a laugh from everyone else.
That is, until we noticed the next boat. Which apparently lacked the paddling awesomeness of our crew.
As it barreled through the water, part of the raft slid up onto a large boulder and - before you could say “Geronimo!” - flipped in the air, scattering its participants into the raging river below.
“That! Was! Awesome!” my son screamed.
Oh. Dear. God. We’d created a monster.
So the guide - along with the rest of the members of the crew - finally gave in. My son got his paddle and finally shut the heck up and began to enjoy the ride.
Then someone mentioned how the beautiful scenery was something right out of the movie “Deliverance.”
“What’s that movie about, Mom?” my son asked.
And...that’s when I threw myself overboard.