It might sound like a bad idea to take two preschoolers on what is supposed to be a slow, relaxing, great-reason-to-day-drink past time like “floating the river.”

But after my first family rafting trip, it’s clear that there’s something magical about a slow float through nature with beers-in-hand and country music on the speakers, even if the vibe is a bit different than the epic, debaucherous float parties of your youth.

In fact, if you’re a parent of young kids, it might even be good for your health.

Here are six songs that contributed to my surprisingly pleasant day on the river with the family, straight from the Whiskey Riff Lake Life Playlist.

We rented a raft on the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe. And after a frenetic morning of packing and sunscreen and mild screaming, we arrived in time to launch with two preschoolers and a blue tick hound onboard. The hound started going nuts, the kids whined about snacks, and I started to worry that we’d made a big mistake.

The underrated Alabama perfectly summed up my pre-float mood with their single from 1992’s American Pride.

But I soon learned that, when you’re on a lazy river, surrounded by nature, everything slows down to a floating pace. Even the baying hound and complaining kids seemed to be moving half speed. I was in a hurry all month, all week, and all morning. And all the reasons why slipped away as we drifted downstream.

“I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” – Alabama

The whining and baying continued, though, testing my ability to hold onto that fleeting feeling of water-borne relaxation. My oldest kid punched the other in the back, the youngest started crying, and the hound jumped in to start chasing some ducks.

But luckily, I remembered that all those things would’ve happened back on dry land too.

All things, even the most irritating, inconvenient, and mundane occurrences, are “better on the water,” just like Ashley McBryde told us on her song from her 2016 album, “Jalopies & Expensive Guitars.”

My chill remained…

“Better on the Water” – Ashley McBryde

Chaos emerged when my oldest kid dropped his bag of chips into the soggy cesspool on the bottom of the raft. His Cheetos disintegrated along with his mood.

Halfway through our float, we were both starting to lose it. But then I realized it was already 10am and I hadn’t even cracked my first beer. As they say in self-care circles, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

So, I filled mine up with Coors Light and my natural state of chill returned for the second half of our float, in spite of the snack-less meltdown happening at my feet. Hailey Whitters knows what a full cup (or round of cups) can do.

“Fillin’ My Cup” – Hailey Whitters feat. Little Big Town

Once the meltdown ended (thank God I had a back-up bag of Funyuns in my dry bag), my four-year-old wanted to try something bold. He plunged into the river with his life vest to try floating alongside us. But when his bravery wore out, he looked to me for salvation.

“Hold my beer,” I said before whisking my son back into the raft. My feat probably wouldn’t make it into Randy Rogers’ and Wade Bowen’s music video for “Hold My Beer,” the title song off their 2020 album, “Hold My Beer, Volume 2.” But, for a moment, I was the epic dad hero I always knew I was.

“Hold My Beer” – Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen

After another sip from my still-cold silver bullet, I glanced at my son, hoping he wasn’t traumatized by my theatrical, slow-water rescue. But he wasn’t looking at me. He and his two-year-old brother were grinning at a raft full of bikini-clad coeds floating past us. “Hiiiiiii” they said in unison, waving their tiny hands. The girls cooed back, and I realized that my “bros-in-training” were going to be alright, because they were already better at floating the river than their old man.

“So began their love affair with water,” as Brad Paisley put it on his single from 2009’s American Saturday Night.

And they’ll have their outdoorsy, degenerate, surprisingly relaxed parents to thank when they hit their prime floating years a decade and a half from now.

“Water” – Brad Paisley

And “Chattahoochee,” because… duh

“Chattahoochee” – Alan Jackson

I hit the shore to re-enter parenting life on dry land. And I thanked the river (and those couple of silver bullets) for filling my emotional cup to the brim.

Even life with kids is “better on the water.”


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