Whale Watching: Something Different Builds Relationship

We had traveled north from San Juan Island in a boat that comfortably held the seven of us. We went at a good clip past numerous islands with rocky outcroppings, our guide pointing out landmarks here and there. We crossed into Canadian waters, into the Strait of Georgia and slowed as we drew near a gathering of other boats. We were whale watching, and our guide had heard via his radio that there was a sighting. A known pod of orcas was close by. It was an exciting adventure for us, one we won’t forget.

What does it have to do with building relationships, you might ask? A lot.

A few years earlier, youngest daughter met a man worth getting to know better, she reported. I think they must have been at that stage when a couple starts wondering whether their parents might like each other, and wouldn’t that be nice if they did. His parents had been watching the relationship develop between their son and our daughter and were evidently as curious about us as we were about them. They invited my husband and I to visit their home on San Juan Island in the Pacific northwest. I had been to Seattle before but I had not been north to Vancouver or Canada at all, and I had never been whale watching. On one of the days of our visit they arranged this great outing with a captain friend who knew how to give a great ride.

Our kids have family instincts. They naturally gravitate toward close, happy family units. It matters to them that, if at all possible, the people who are important to them, like each other and are capable of getting along and having fun together. This weekend was the perfect test.

We had a wonderful time, and in learning a little about Ryan’s parents, I was also learning things about Ryan. In learning more about Ryan, I was also learning things about my daughter Esther. My husband and I were building relationships with Esther, with Ryan and with his parents as we spent time together doing interesting things over that weekend.

I’ve also had a wonderful time meeting Julia’s in-law family. Getting to know and like them was interesting for many reasons, particularly because her mother-in-law and I are both named Shirley. We both played piano, we were both in a caretaking role for our mothers. We both had severe arthritis in the same thumb, had both been wearing a very distinct, not common brace for years and she was able to encourage me to get the surgical fix that she had just successfully gone through. I think there were other similarities that I can’t remember now. It was uncanny. It created a nice start to our relationship, which has continued.

Our relationships with both of these families was very important to us and our girls as they went through the stress of planning and holding weddings during the pandemic. Talk about bonding experiences… weddings will do that, and in such a memorable (and nice) way.

One way of staying close to my adult children has been getting to know the people in their lives. It started in play groups when they were very young. It continued through the school years when I wanted to know their friends, their teachers, who they played music with, who was in their youth group or on sports teams with them. And now, look where it ended up – watching whales in the Strait of Georgia. Two good words that both begin with W. Isn’t life interesting? Just saying…

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