Lawn Kayaking: Distractions and Default-Settings


We were at Aunt Cathy and Uncle Steve’s house in 1999.  The kids and their cousins were enjoying a kayak ride through the lawn, courtesy of their Aunt Claudia, who always shared in the unique moments of her nieces and nephews.

We always laugh that the perfect gift for a baby shower would be an abandoned car.  Just stick it in the backyard and you’ll never need to assemble that expensive play-structure or worry about broken necks on a trampoline.

Some children’s barbers actually give their victims a giant ball of masking tape and by the time the kid is finished de-sticking his hands and re-sticking the ball to his face, the chair or his mom the haircut is done.  New barber shops for tots have the same idea.


In Detroit, a local chain has made some pretty good money using this tactic for guys in what has become known as the Hooters Hair Cut Place.


Bored toddlers and family get-togethers are a dangerous combination.  Claudia’s art of distraction has always impressed me.  It’s a skill that comes in handy, particularly with minor injuries.  My friend Colleen gave us some great advice–over-react.  During that painful couple seconds when you hear the unique sound of a child’s head thunking on the ground or against a coffee table all witnesses hold their breath and await the howl as the young brain realizes what has happened–and perhaps how to get maximum attention.  


You hear the inhale as the concert is about to begin.  This moment, after she’s confident no trip to the E.R. is necessary is when Colleen intercedes with a reassuring statement like, “Oh my goodness, your head just rolled off and is under the chair.  We’ve got to find it!  Hurry up, let’s look!”

Within minutes, the patient is soon on her hands and knees, giggling, looking for her head.  And with a few willing accomplices–generally wonderful aunts and uncles like our kids are fortunate enough to have in their lives, the entire room is head-hunting–even while the robin’s egg knot forms on a forgotten forehead.

Perhaps we cry (or get in a grumpy mood) just out of boredom.  Then eventually it becomes our default setting?

In the background of the picture above observe three older cousins in typical poses found in 14-16 year olds stuck at a family event…


Just seven years before the kayak picture they were helping Patrice and me get married…


Anyone who has walked the hallways of an elementary school sees the default setting for grades K-4 set at “fun.”  They are uniquely interested in their surroundings.  If you’re volunteering (or just dropping off a forgotten lunch) these same kids smile and dance a little as they walk.


Ask teenagers to pose like this and you’ll get a quite different expression.  The teenager’s default setting is “bored,” or at least that’s the act.  but rather than talk to one another, they are looking at the kids in the kayak and probably remembering when they had the “fun” switch clicked on.

Now those same teenagers are in their thirties and at different stages of their lives, some with children of their own with their own dials switched to “fun.”  And contagiously, those previously bored teenagers may find themselves with their setting reset to the same as Aunt Claudia’s as she’s rocking the boat and creating such genuine expressions that have followed these four kids along fourteen years later.


  • Aidan is in front and he’s definitely in-the-moment.  He’s always enjoyed speed with no fear of losing his balance. 
  • Amanda is right behind him and is in her unique moment as well, pure joy with a little fun, roller-coaster-fear.  
  • Alex seems as calm in this picture as she is now as a high school student, just rolling along and happy to have some company.  
  • Abby has the back seat and, like now, couldn’t be happier with her cousin (and high school classmate) Alex by her side with an in-flight refreshment.

I ran across this kayak picture today while scanning old snapshots.  I can’t remember why we were at Cathy and Steve’s that day.  But I’m grateful that I bumped into it to remind me to check my own default setting.


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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

One Response to Lawn Kayaking: Distractions and Default-Settings

  1. Claudia Knox says:

    Thanks Kevin for making me look so good. The kids at that age were a blast to be with. Just find a fun distraction and they will usually laugh.