Like the little bubbles on the bottom of a pot of water getting bigger and bigger until a full, rolling boil is present, so was the excitement washing over me. I could hardly sleep the night before and I was finally setting out.
I know that the hands of the clock are ever moving and that there is nothing I can do to push back against them. One of my favorite admonishments from the Bible is found in Ephesians 5. When I spend some alone time meditating on this passage, I can almost hear Paul saying, “Mike, the days are evil, the clock ticks life away so make every moment count.”
I also know that there is a great demand upon my time (a major reason why this blog has fallen a bit to the wayside… I’m sorry y’all). I recognize that my kids are spending a lot less time with me than they were in Washington and that, if I plan on finishing well at this school, I must put in some long hours.
I decided to guard my weekends in order to nourish the fragile relationships I have with my kids. Most notably with my older two. I want my kids to feel like they are a part of something that I am a part of, not just tagging along. I want them to feel like they are wanted, chosen, sought after… like they belong.
I have belonged to some really amazing groups during my life and, though they are drastically different, they did have some things in common. They were exclusive (some more than others), I had to do something to be a part of it (some more than others), I had to want to be there, there was a designated purpose, and it usually cost me something. When I did the things required to be a part of these groups and demonstrated a desire to commit to their mission, helping to fulfill their purpose, I felt as though I mattered and that I belonged to the team. This is what I want my kids to feel like when they are with me and each other on an adventure.
So I started a club. I called it the Saturday Morning Adventure Club. Before I went to work on Friday morning, I wrote out 8 questions on the board for the kids to answer. I had them write down their name and birthday. They had to list their skills. They had to tell me what made a good adventure good and a bad adventure bad. They had to answer the question “How awesome is your dad?” They had to look up in a dictionary (or use other resources, like their mama) to find out what the words Koinonia and Outdoors mean, then they had to draw a picture of what they think when they hear these words.
When I got home, I called each of them into my “office” one at a time for an interview. We went over their applications in detail. One applicant does not care about adventure, but put on the application that they wanted to join the club because they liked the leader and wanted to be a part of whatever club he was leading. This one’s artwork was creative and well proportioned.
Applicant 2 decided to answer the questions in whatever random order he so desired. I could not follow his answers to save my life. I gave him double points during the interview for demonstrating his ability to “draw outside of the lines.” I admired the “I’ll answer your silly questions in my own silly way” spirit. Though his ability to follow directions was on the low side, he listed his skills in the following order… I can run fast. I’ll take it.
I made a simple little emblem for our team and am in the process of getting hats made for us. Team emblem on the front, nickname on the back. These kids do not come with me on Saturday mornings because they have to, or because it is just what we do, but because the team is going, and they are a part of the team. They have to get the gear together before the trips and they carry more than their fair share of the cleanup after the trip.
And I have started building another team!
Every Saturday morning we depart from our Team Headquarters (the garage) No Later Than 0800 (though the target departure time is 0645) and we go paddling.
That first trip was like walking on lightning for me. I love getting up early, in the calm stillness of the morning, drinking my coffee and restoring my soul before breakfast. I woke the kids up an they got the requisite gear together for the day as I double checked the straps on the canoe (loaded the night before) and made final checks of the weather. Breakfast was done, gear was inspected, packed, and loaded, and the kids were strapped in. We were off.
1 hour later I had unloaded the canoe onto the beach, put the gear bags in the bottom of the boat, and left my teammates on the shore watching the gear as I drove back to a suitable parking area. As I walked back to the rally point my mind raced. Are we ready? Is this actually going to be a good thing? What if we flip the boat or get rained on? Will my teammates, my kids, want to abandon the cause?
With great apprehension and a touch of icy fear, I pushed the canoe out into the channel…
And for the next 4 hours, Team Hitefield’s Saturday Morning Adventure Club chased horse shoe crabs and herons, watched striped bass and egrets, paddled like mad and drifted inconsolably in the wind.
I have not been in a long time as proud as I am now to be a member of a team.
So if y’all are ever up in the stillness of the morning on a Saturday before the world starts humming, go for a walk, take a kid with you (if there is one available), and post comments about your adventure!