I'd say go with the boat you will ultimately be happiest with in for your situation.
You mentioned having small children that will someday be joining you guy's on the river, a raft would be best for kids.
I love my small cat, It's super manuverable, fun and stable for it's size, but I think a 14' raft would be fine to learn on, there are plenty of smaller ladies that learned to guide with them, and they tend to be a big stable forgiving boat for a begginer.
A smaller cat would be a blast, and they are easy to row, I think, but you may need to trade it for something else soon, or buy a second boat. Sometimes they don't FEEL, as safe as a raft to a more timid begginer, either.
"one Iliterate son of a bitch"