I had tied Bettina’s kayak to mine as we paddled across the lake. I was working hard and Bettina was lying back with her arms folded behind her head wearing a satisfied smile. I then did my party trick to amuse her performing ‘eskimo roles’, disappearing under the water then coming up again, twisting and turning the kayak upright. The muddy water was going up my nose and each time I did this Bettina would say “again Dad” what could I do? Bettina had only just started using verbal communication and I just wanted to please her, as Joyce says “if she can say it, she can have it”.
We were in mid Wales near Welshpool and a few days before we had booked into the Outdoor Activity Centre ‘Redridge’ at the end of the 1990s, a place Bettina and I were to visit annually for a number of years where we rock climbed, abseiled, trekked, canoed and even walked up a mountain together.
This was something really special for the both of us. I had done lots of outdoor pursuits in the Army (we called it Adventure Training). The Army’s justification for this training was that it created confidence in people, enhanced teamwork, let off steam and helped build relationships. I was already proud of my relationships with both my daughters (and still am) and worked hard at building our relationship every day, although it doesn’t feel like work, with both my daughters.
I was not going to get complacent with our relationship or rest on my laurels either. Bettina was entering an important phase in her life as she had become a teenager and I wanted us to bond. I felt doing something like this would enhance and build our relationship as well as having lots of fun together.
Spending time with Bettina on our visits to Redridge, I learned so much from her about relationships. How to maintain them, how they build, the trust that comes from sharing challenges and also sharing the scary bits.
So, as in my blog posts about “Being Bettina’s Dad”, I share with you the lessons Bettina has taught me and five lessons I picked up during our outdoor pursuit holidays. I hope they help you in your professional and personal life:
Bettina’s 5 imperatives for building a relationship:
- Random Acts of Kindness: As a family we love doing things for each other, usually impulsive, when the other is least expecting it. We give our time no matter what we are in the middle of. Bettina often offered me her sweets and during meals she went out of her way to look for things she knew I liked. I supported her with some of her personal care – I prided myself on combing her hair and tying a ribbon in the way she liked it.
- Doing something just for the hell of it: During the evenings there were scheduled activities but I knew if I offered Bettina a choice she would opt for a drive into town (5 miles away) to chill out, eat lots of ice cream and buy comics, oh, and decorate our room with lots of balloons on our return.
- Building Trust: I am not sure she would have climbed up that rock, or joined me in the Canadian Canoe or abseiled (when she had never done this before) if she did not have absolute trust in me. The true test came when we were pot holing in a very dark cave. I had to crawl down feet first so she could look into my face to see if I was frightened! I made sure I had my best smile on and she was then ok to follow me down.
- Making a connection: For Bettina this is about sharing your emotions and that it is okay to show them without being judged.
- Looking out for each other: For Bettina it is about enjoying each other’s company and while I am always tempted to wrap my daughters (and wife!) in cotton wool, I do try to support Bettina in avoiding mistakes. Giving people the answers can save a lot of grief!
Result = a bond that can last forever
My older daughter Jennifer wrote in a (much treasured) Father’s Day card “I wonder what our next adventure together will be?” Relationships are also about sharing adventures.
I have shared some of the photographs from some of the trips to Redridge with this blog post. I have some wonderful memories from our time there, but perhaps one of the best memories connected to our breaks was at one of Bettina school term reviews.
Following the review with the teachers, we were just leaving the school when I was stopped by a Deputy Head Teacher. He wanted to thank Bettina and me for inspiring him to arrange a similar holiday for him and his teenage daughter. He told me how they really bonded during their break together. This meant a lot to me as we had influenced someone’s relationships in a positive way. I hope this story has a similar effect for you.