John Cowan - The Whitewater-Rafting Years

Publish Date
Friday, 1 July 2016, 1:57PM
By John Cowan

Some years ago some lunatics offered to take me white-water rafting. Testosterone poisoning afflicts males in strange ways, and so even though every sensible neurone in my brain yelled “NO!”, my hormone-blighted tongue mumbled  “yes” . My job was to kneel in the front of the raft, scream, and split the rocks open with my knees through the fabric floor of the raft. With no previous experience to draw on, I had to depend on reflexes, instincts and a few shreds of logic. (Actually, there was very little logic, because most of my logic refused to get into the raft and waited with my watch and camera back on the river bank.) At one point I canned out, and I got trappd under the raft as it careened down the gorge. I managed to survive by panicking and inhaling water into my lungs. No-one had told me how to do it  - it just came naturally to me. Eventually I got back into the raft, and made it through the gorge. e

It was terrifying but exhilarating. For those few minutes I was alive. (I was very nearly dead, but I was also alive). For those awful, wonderful, hectic moments, life became focused and thrilling.

Parenting teenagers is like white water rafting. Scary, hectic and uncomfortable - yes; but also thrilling, stimulating, challenging and ultimately very rewarding. If you’re the parent of a teenager - you’re stuck for  the ride. So you may as well decide that you’re going to enjoy it. But brace yourself for the knocks.

Is there a secret for getting through the white-water rafting teenage years? Yes there is! It’s what you do in the quiet stretch of the river leading up to the rapids, when they are aged five to twelve. All the relationship building and discipline and fun that you invest during those years will pay a huge dividend when puberty arrives at your place. If you missed the quiet stretch and you are already mid-rapids, don’t panic:  there’s still lots you can do, and the most important thing is don’t capsize the raft. By that I mean, stay close to your teenager and keep loving them, and try to avoid having parent-sized tantrums and sookies.

Hang in there, enjoy the good patches, grin through the bad ones … and in few years you’ll have a lovely young adult.  And, when they are parents themselves, remember to smile when they complain about their kids.

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