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A Childhood Benchmark: Her First SCUBA Dive

Family Dive Adventures, a company focused on teaching families to dive

 

By Chris “Chez” Chesak

Photos by Margo Peyton of Family Dive Adventures

Any parent will tell you that various developmental benchmarks and milestones delineate a child’s early life. These notable moments include the child’s first crawl, the first tentative steps, her first words, and – of course – the first time she SCUBA dives open water.

While those first milestones are probably familiar to you, the last one might not be so. But my point is that parents have the wonder-filled opportunity to witness so many other moments of achievement and success, far beyond those initial steps and babbling first words. Those two moments, while enormously significant, are really just the beginning.

My wife and I have had the honor and privilege of seeing our girls off to their first days of daycare, first sleep over, first day of ‘big girl’ school, etc. But you don’t necessarily expect to realize another milestone at a pool in Bonaire.

Yet, there we were, my wife and I fresh from dive training of our own, tentatively watching our girls’ introductory lessons in the pool of Buddy Dive Bonaire. We watched them, all kitted out, bubbling about in the shallow end.

We’d invested a lot of effort to get to this moment, when we tentatively asked, ‘So girls, what do you think? Do you like diving?’ Ten-year-old Lillian gave a quick, very happy ‘OK’ sign and submerged again. Younger, more apprehensive Sylvia thought it over for a moment then, after a pregnant pause, blurted, “I like SCUBA diving. It’s cool,” before she slid back under the surface.

Not long after, both girls where diving in the actual ocean (albeit in the shallows of the bay right within the resort). They were under the very careful guidance and tutelage of the superb staff of Family Dive Adventures, a company focused on teaching families to dive.

During this weeklong adventure, I felt that we could actually see (or perhaps ‘sense’ is a more appropriate word) our girls take big developmental strives forward. From their first tentative underwater breaths in the pool to then stepping fearlessly into the ocean, adroitly communicating with PADI hand signals, you could actually see their confidence build, as well as their abilities to navigate the world (even the part underwater). It was truly monumental.

This is why we travel with our children – to witness them excel at something new, adventurous, dynamic, and exciting. We could imagine them soon stepping up to a junior high podium, taking a last-second shot, or asking someone to dance with more confidence because here, in Bonaire, they’d faced a fear, overcame it, and then realized all the great benefits that come with that achievement.

They were soon eagerly awaiting the next dive, talking about which of the other kids were their preferred dive partners, reviewing pre-dive safety routines, rattling off the names of fish they’d spotted, and just generally having a ball – and most of it without us. While we had ample time to together as a family, part of the genius of Family Dive Adventures is that most of the time our girls were with their guides diving, running around the resort with other kids, or partaking in other activities, like crafts, a dockside slack line, tubing, and exploring the island’s sites.

With kids our age, the milestones aren’t as monumental as first steps or first words, but they still come along every month or so. And there are still hundreds more benchmarks to come, be it their first 360 on a snowboard, first driving lesson, first break up, or first published poem.

The author, coming up for air.

So be sure to push your kids into the unexpected, the unusual and unknown because that’s where the real growth comes. These accelerated leaps of development won’t come in the mall or in front of yet another screen, but from their first solo backpack, their first breeching whale, their first communications without words to a child from another culture, or their first glimpse of a local ritual.

This is what travel is all about; discovery of not just the world, but also the self. And no one gets more out of that kind of discovery than kids.

If You Go

We used Family Dive Adventures, who specializes in providing various tracks for adults (both those already certified and those brand new to diving), teens, middle school kids, and even small children. Kids as young as 11 can actually get PADI certified during the trip and Family Dive Adventures moves their camps around various premier dive locations around the world. Our dive camp was on the island of Bonaire, at Buddy Dive Bonaire in Kralendijk. We flew via Atlanta to the island for our adventure.

 

Chris ‘Chez’ Chesak is Executive Director of the Family Travel Association and a 15-year veteran of the travel industry. While he’s lived all over the U.S. and traveled to nearly 30 countries, he has the most fun when he’s exploring with his wife Sally, and two daughters. An avid outdoors person and sometimes writer, he’s happiest on a trail, on skis, or nestled into a sleeping bag.  And while his daughters now love diving, it’s his wife who is absolutely smitten with it.

 

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