“You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?”
Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye.”
We’ve been hanging out at Burnaby Lake a lot these days – my young lad has aspirations to be on the Canadian Olympic team for the sprint canoe (he’s 12, but by-gosh, he’s got a goal…). He paddles with his canoe & kayak club there and so, while he’s paddling like mad on the lake, we get to enjoy the scenery in this beautiful park (that is, when we’re not rushing to Costco for groceries, or flying to KMS Tools to pick up yet another tool for the shop, or driving to Ikea, well, just because it’s a trip to Ikea).
Burnaby Lake is a pretty amazing and beautiful lake. It was formed by glaciers a gazillion years ago and is now a refreshingly blue spot on a grey/ green map in the middle of the busy city.
We walked the whole 10-km loop around it once, and nearly died doing it (I think the girl in the red jogging shorts who ran by us, not once, but twice, thought we should have called someone in for back up).
(Did I mention the three other members of our little family are NOT athletic in the least and so we had blisters on top of our blisters, and we had also run out of water half way?)
(And yes, we’re THOSE unprepared people!)
What??? We thought they’d have golf carts ripping around the trails and that we could just flag one down. There aren’t.
And we had blisters to show for it.
And ashamed. It’s so un-Canadian of us.
And I hate to admit it too, we stand in the middle of Mountain Equipment Coop and look at the carabiners all lined up in a row, and the minus-100 sleeping bags hanging off the walls, and we dream of hiking in the razor-edged Cascade mountains or kayaking the boundless Pacific Ocean or mountain biking in the… oh, never mind.
Back to Burnaby Lake and Holden Caulfield.
Holden’s question was, fundamentally, “Where does a person go when his environment can no longer support him?” and I wonder about the restlessness that happens in teenagers or tweens when there are too many rules and regulations, or when there are NO rules and regulations. We live in a world that seems to rotate in a mad crazy whirl between helicopter parents and negligent parents – a bi-polar parenting model, if you will. There are teenagers roaming around the neighborhoods at night, pushing over mailboxes, letting off firecrackers, or spray painting fences, or there are teenagers not roaming around at all, primarily because they’ve been hyper-scheduled and can’t make their own way out of a wet cardboard box – kids who are called, as Lenore Skenazy pointed out, “tea cup kids.” Kids who fall apart, who crack and break. Kids who are fragile because, in my opinion, they’ve not learned how to be strong, or not learned what strong looks like. I’m actually not sure if one is worse than the other – to be rebellious or to be overly protected – and it seems to be difficult to achieve balance of any kind these days, no matter how hard we try. And on that note, my son apparently got in trouble at school the other day for defending his friend. “It’s not your jurisdiction,” the teacher said. Now, I don’t know her side of the story, or even the accuracy of all the facts, but, we told him, “It IS your jurisdiction. If that child is afraid to say something or afraid to stand up for himself, you need to be his voice.” We’ve always said that. Because we believe our children are strong enough to say when something is wrong. And it may be our undoing one day because we also happen to live in a world of guns and knives, but I have to hope that for now it will give him the courage to stand a little taller and walk a little prouder.
I guess, at the end of the day, the ducks go where they need to go when the winter closes in because instinct kicks in; likewise, our children will do what they need to do in order to get by. That primal instinct niggles at them too. One that isn’t to be ignored. And whether we are there as parents to protect them and guide them, or we are not there, they will still try to make their own way and stand on their own feet, however that happens for them.