Thoughts on Fishing with Kids
Those of you that don't know me outside of this blog may not know that I am a father of three children. I've two girls and a boy; each was born February 15th, 2007. Yes. Triplets.
I have to admit that I was overwhelmed - perhaps even panicked - when the kids were first born; going from zero to nearly 30 diapers in a day will do that to a person. That's all changed, however, now that the trips have grown a bit. At five-years-old, they're on the verge of great things. They're learning to read. September brings Kindergarten and soccer. They can get drinks and snacks from the refrigerator without any assistance, and my wife and I can tell them to dress themselves with the odds usually better than 2:1 that they'll successfully accomplish the task (thank God for small victories). Soon they'll be mowing the lawn, doing their own laundry, learning to drive, and hiring lawyers to argue for the right to cremate my body, sell my home, and pillage my 401k. A bright future, indeed.
Looking back on the past five years, I realize that my best moments as a father have all come on days when I've taken my kids to the river. I don't believe I'm generalizing when I say that children - not just my own -are drawn to water; the attraction seems almost instinctive. I would challenge the members of my audience to find a young person who doesn't want to wade along the shore, swim in the surf, or splash in a puddle. I'm not sure when - as adolescents or as adults - so many of us lose interest in water and in woods, but I'm almost certain the behavior is learned. We must be taught to disdain the outdoors. I hope I never do that to my children, and I'm thankful that my three little guys are on the far side of that particular pendulum's swing.
I remember when my family made its first trip to the river; the kids were three - well on their way to twenty - and while my wife consented to the day, she was apprehensive about having her babes so close to the Battenkill's currents. In Arlington, Vermont - not far from the headwaters of the storied river - there is a small park and playground built along the river's edge. The river here runs swift but shallow, and the large cobble that constitutes the riverbed is perfect for a child's discovery. Our afternoon was full of minnows and crayfish, caddis pupa and stonefly nymphs. The day went so well - in fact - that my wife was able to forget her apprehension and simply enjoy her children.
We've made dozens of trips to nearly as many lakes and rivers since that first trip to the Battenkill, and I don't recall the kids ever having a bad time (well ... there was the day my boy stepped through the center of a dead, bloated, and slowly putrifying carp). For my part, our time together on the water has been many things, but more than anything else my family's time riverside has been instructive. I've learned so much, about my children as multiples and as individuals, and about myself as a fisherman and a father.
A few of my observations ...
- Kids love mud, and so too should their parents. Mud - by virtue of its viscosity - slows the inmates - I mean kids - allowing parents to regain some ground.
- Some children are a little like dogs in that they will try to taste just about anything they can fit in their mouths. Sun bleached bones, earthworms, sedimentary rocks, vacated snail shells, and smallmouth bass are among their favorites. While some of the things kids can put in their mouths may harm them, the vast majority will not, and the act of tasting will make memories parents will cherish for a lifetime. The number for poison control is 1-800-222-1222. Seriously, that's the number.
- Kids like to know the names of things, and will give objects a name whenever they find it appropriate. A worm might be Harold, and a sunfish might be Sparkles. "Daddy, Harold must be pretty tasty because Sparkles ate his head."
- Water is fun because water is wet. If water were dry it would be dust, and dust is not fun. As young children will only focus on a fishing rod for mere seconds at a time, a parent should be prepared to let his or her kids play in the water. Just remember that water is fun because water is wet, but riding home in wet Iron Man or Princess Belle underwear is not.
- Sleeping on a water bed in a $120,000.00 recreational vehicle is not camping. Camping is roasting marshmallows, cursing mosquito bites, and sleeping under the gauzy mesh of leaky Coleman tent. Kids must experience the tent before they move onto an Airstream or Winnebago - even if it that experience happens in the backyard. To do otherwise is to risk your child - son or daughter - someday dating a man whose street handle is "Skinny P." As in "Yo, Skinny P in the hizzle ... mofos."
- Some spouses act more like children when made to spend time riverside. Consequently, one should be prepared to deal with a whining spouse as one would a whining child. Dunk them and hold them under just long enough to cause hypoxia but not death. After pulling one's spouse from the water, be sure to act as if they've been saved from a horrible accident. I jest - of course - but a quick dunking (sans hypoxia) is sure to improve his or her attitude.
- If your son or daughter wants to kiss a fish, then let them kiss a fish. Would you rather a fish or Skinny P?
- With the right modifications, a canoe can quite easily become a low cost family fun barge.
- The good Lord made tadpoles and panfish with children in mind, and children who enjoy panfish and tadpoles, with parents in mind. Get outside and enjoy your kids, enjoying themselves.