Taking kids and putting them on a sailboat may seem like the most abnormal, crazy, and maybe even dangerous thing, a parent would want to do. But there is much more to it.
The benefits that we have seen of cruising with kids far outweigh the slight craziness that the lifestyle creates. It is a way of travel that we feel every child, and parent, should experience. The things you will learn about yourself and your child will amaze you.
10 REASONS TO SAIL WITH KIDS
1. A sailboat is plenty of space
We don’t have a huge house and our daughter’s are stuck sharing a bedroom. They are 4 and 7, sharing is a good life lesson for them. They are learning to share their personal space with each other and are learning how to share the rest of our “home” with my husband and I. I am pretty sure that at some point in their lives, once they have spread their wings and left us, they will be in the position of having to live with a room mate. So we are creating the perfect roommates in them. They understand how to clean up after themselves, how to split chores, and how to not take up too much space.
They are also growing up watching two parents that are not tied down to a mortgage or bills that are suffocating. They see parents that have chosen a home that fits their budget and their desires. In living “small” they are learning that they don’t need all of those extra rooms, and extra things to fill them with. They are growing up green and clean. And as an extra “parenting bonus” I can see or hear them no matter where they are in our boat. Talk about supervision!
2. They are in a “worldly school”
In their short 7 and 4 years of life they have learned such things as how to converse in “island talk”, how to slow life down, how to conserve on water and power, how to swing from trees, how to properly eat mangos, how to read the wind, how to observe the underwater life without being intrusive, how to avoid seasickness, how to pack for long flights, how to travel in the back of pickup trucks, that local taxis only cost $1, how to get innovative when the heat pipes up, what limoncillos are, how to meld English/Spanish/French to create a language that most islands will understand, how to hold a sea urchin so it wont sting you, how to socially adapt, how to entertain themselves, how to hold a conversation with an adult, how to have soldier crab races, how to dive to 15ft and equalize their ears, and SO much more.
They are incredible children that crave knowledge. Combined, I think they ask me about 400 questions a day. (My brain hurts!) All in search of a better understanding of our world.
3. Their education is ahead of schedule
Let’s be honest, boredom pushes me to homeschool, a lot. There are only so many magnet games I can play before I announce “ok, let’s do homework”. And to be even more honest, most of the time I am crawling out of bed (not a morning person) and the girls are already asking me, “can we do school work?”. Arias, as a 7 year old is currently doing her grade 3 curriculum, and Ellia, 4 years old, is writing at grade 1 level.
We are not at all worried about how they “compare” to kids on land. When you hear me talk about enrolling the girls in school, it is more so due to my personal desires than their education levels (I have spent 365 days a year, for 7 years with kids, minus the 2 week hiatus to India we took a while back!, school sounds like a nice break for me).
4. They get 2 parents 24/7
Now let’s be clear, my husband is a project-o-holic. That is where he thrives, so yes he is busy a lot of the days, but that does not mean he is not present. Our girls spend their entire days with me, learning, playing, and on excursions. And then they get my husband on every break that he takes, or we can walk by and see him whenever they desire too.
Our girls are in a position where they have two role models with them full time. They have two parents around to teach them, and to nip bad behaviour in the behind. (Believe me, sometimes it takes two parents to deal with “little princess attitude”!)
We have many people compliment us with our parenting, but we can fully attribute that to fact that we are both around to tag each other out, when one gets tired, the other is there to take over and have your back. The girls see this dynamic and are raised with it, and apparently it is affecting them in a positive way.
5. Their home is a jungle gym and their backyard is the world
Just for one second imagine yourself as a 4 year old, you are all of 3 ft tall, what does a 41ft sailboat look like for you at that height!?…a jungle gym. There are couches to climb on, biminis to swing on, booms to lay on, beds to roll in, 41ft to run down. And forget about the surroundings, an ocean to swim in, mountains to hike, and beaches to explore.
When you are this small, 41ft seems huge. Our girls are constantly zooming around like our boat is their personal race track and obstacle course with new challenges that only their imagination can create. They have surprised us with their flexibility and made us question if they are Olympic worthy at such a young age. The space is not a constraint but rather a playground to be explored over and over again.
One step off our boat and they have wildlife to observe and learn from. Their backyard is something we see in movies; it is something enormous and magical to them.
6. All colors blend
Our girls don’t see in separate colors; you are not white, or black, or yellow, or tan. We are just all different shades of the same thing. Arias proved this to us once when we were in Haiti, she got very frustrated when we did not know which “guy in the green shirt” she was talking about, when she could have very well said the guy with the darkest of dark skin, but no, it was his shirt that set him apart.
They see the language difference, the location difference, but not a people difference. They are just new people that they can talk to and be friends with. People that they can bombard with their hundreds of questions.
The destinations we have travelled with them we are the minority, we are the ones that stand out and that are different. We are the ones that need to open up and accept what comes to us.
Their friends are international, and there is such fun in that. When we struggle to pronounce their “little buddies” names, we know we have done things right.
They have found play as a common language to break through the Russian or Creole or Spanish. They have learned different cultures and ways of living through other 0-7 year olds, and they have come to terms that they usually have the most unusual lifestyle of all.
7. They are thankful for the little things
We have come to see that our girls get just as excited about having a hot fresh water shower as they do about a new toy. It is those little things that we need to remember to be thankful for, and it is those little things that our girls are learning to be grateful for.
It may seem odd to say that it is not everyday that we get to shower in non-stop running hot water, but trust me, from a boater’s standpoint those days are magical. And even when we have those opportunities of endless water, our girls still know to shut the water off while soaping up to conserve the most water possible and help our earth.
The girls know their life is not the most ordinary and that not all kids their age get to do such crazy things. And they both think they are pretty darn cool when they get to do the little things.
8. They are braver than me
At their young ages they have come in contact with more creepy critters, sea animals, weather mishaps, food differences, and language barriers to say that these two are definitely braver than their mama.
Their free spirits and intelligence pushes them into new adventures where they know that if they are with someone they trust, who says “it’s ok”, then there should be no fear. I have watched them free dive, snorkel with dolphins double their size, hold soldier crabs that could take off their fingers, play with sting rays, use an underwater hookah, eat clams, and enter a school where they did not speak the language. For them this is all part of their lives, and we said it is ok, so why doubt that.
9. Their taste buds are exotic
They have been raised with “taste first and then decide”, and both follow this rule.
Being fearless and open when it comes to their food has allowed us to discovered that Ellia is Dominican at heart, with her favorite food being eggs, rice and beans. While Arias has a love for deep sea fish that only her Papa can provide. Presented with something new, even if it is a fish that we just filleted in front of them, our daughters will try it and then decide if they want a second bite or not.
10. They believe in dreams
Being raised with two parents that are travellers, they have known nothing else but the pursuit of happiness, new destinations, and to follow what you really want. They have watched us forego some of those creature comforts, like the hot showers, to put the money saved on those bills towards what it is we really desire.
They have seen that hard work pays off, and that if it is what you truly want, then work for and towards it.
They have witnessed that we, as individuals, have the power to change things, to make the world better, even if in the smallest ways. And they have seen what a loving and supportive family/friends unit can do to make your dreams come true.
Strip away the fact that the girls are currently living on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands, that they have done nothing but travel the Caribbean since their births, and they are learning life through a multitude of different people and cultures, I still think that we can say that we have forced our girls into a pretty fortunate life.
Who knows, we may stop the sailing life at some point, or never, but the adventure will always be with us, and it is this trait that we have instilled in our daughters’. That and fearlessness, independence, intelligence, openness and acceptance. I’m ok with that.