My daughter Maggie is 8 years old and her cousin Jack is 9. Jack’s mother is my wife’s sister and we live about 1 mile apart. Our three kids and their 4 kids spend a great deal of time together and Maggie and Jack are the oldest. These days, Jack seems to have no use for an 8-year-old girl, but it wasn’t always that way. For the first 4 years, they were inseparable. Maggie still adores Jack and looks at him as an idol, but Jack wants no part of her. Today, we forced them together for 2+ hours in the cockpit of Marsaili (my 18′ Marshall Sanderling Catboat) exploring Lewis Bay in Cape Cod, MA.
My wife and her sister are very close. When they each had their first kids about a year apart, those kids were instant best friends because they got to hang out together constantly. Sure they bickered like two kids bicker, but they both wanted to spend every minute together. That started around 2006. The following years brought 2 more boys into Jack’s family and one more boy into our family (excluding the more recent babies). Suddenly, Maggie was outnumbered 4-to-1. Since Jack is the eldest boy, he is the alpha dog. At some point (hopefully it is just a phase), Jack decided that Maggie was the enemy and the other wolf cubs followed suit. We stay on top of it and Maggie is a very resilient girl, but it is a constant struggle as the two families typically spend every weekend together on the Cape in the summer.
I should add, that Jack’s distaste for Maggie is not totally unwarranted. Maggie is a very strong-willed, controlling, somewhat frantic, hot head. She is a sweet girl, but she can be a challenge to keep up with (to put it mildly). If things do not go reasonably close to her way, you run the risk of a full nuclear melt down. Not to mention, at this age I believe all girls are just developing that childhood condition called “cooties.” Jack, is similar to Maggie in many ways and there is a constant power struggle when they are together. They are both take-charge-and-lead kids. The heartbreaking part is that Maggie absolutely adores and admires Jack, but only gets the opposite emotions in return. Today we decided to try something new with a little help from Marsaili.
The plan was to go sailing and Maggie was coming with me. Sometimes, just getting her out of the house away from all that testosterone is great for her (and us). The twist in the story is that Jack’s mother and I decided to tell Jack that he was going sailing too and that it would just be him, Maggie, and Uncle Jed. Jack loves me and we always have fun together. I think I often take the role of the crazy, fun uncle. So Jack agreed. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I had to make it fun and entertaining to keep Jack’s mind off of his distaste for Maggie and Maggie’s mind off of Jack’s distaste for Maggie.
When we got out to Marsaili, it was blowing 20kts with 25kts gusts. Fine for just me, but a little out of my comfort zone being solo with 2 kids on board. Nonetheless, there was no way this wasn’t going to happen. I was so curious to see how these 2 would act with just Uncle Jed in charge. I had images in my head of holding the tiller in place with my foot while I am trying to pull these two off of each other in some screaming donnybrook at sea. The dinghy ride out was uneventful, so I had the kids help me tie a reef in the sail and we were off. Things started pretty much as I expected. Maggie is a sailor and knows a lot of the language and boat procedures. All she wanted to do was to show off to Jack how much she knew, but all it was doing was annoying Jack.
“Once we get under way Jack,” she offered. “I will show you how to cleat a line.”
“Duh,” Jack snapped. “I think I can figure it out.”
Maggie just sat back and forced a smile trying to thicken up her skin. Eventually, I asked Jack to cleat a line but he struggled a bit and did it incorrectly. I knew that if Maggie corrected him, Jack would just get frustrated, make fun of her, and Maggie would feel bad about herself, so I jumped in.
“Great work Jack!” I said. “You almost got it, but let me show you something.”
I instructed him on the correct way to do it and Maggie added color commentary in the background. Jack seemed happy to learn and was cleating lines like a pro in no time. Wow! That worked! So that was the tactic I followed for the rest of the cruise and it was fantastic.
Over the course of 2+ hours, we sailed out to the channel in Lewis Bay to check out the ferries, hung our feet in the water, stood up on the bow to watch the waves crash, talked like pirates, and motored and anchored at Egg Island for a swim and some exploring. Maggie and Jack were like old buddies exploring the foreign shores and learning the ropes of Marsaili and catboat sailing. Whether it was the fear of the wrath of Uncle Jed or the fun of being out on the water exploring, they did not argue once. Jack knows that Maggie is my little girl and that I don’t tolerate anyone being mean to her. Maggie knows that when she acts up and is obnoxious that I will swiftly point it out to her which is highly embarrassing in front of other people. Those two elements kept the kids in line and they actually enjoyed each other’s company. The kids, Marsaili, and a beautiful day on the Cape combined for a beautiful day at sea and hopefully a small rekindling of an old friendship. As always, thank you Marsaili!
Thank you for reading!