As a parent I make a lot of lists. I talk to myself internally and sometimes even externally. I plan, to the best of my abilities, what my children will do, sometimes well into their future. As my babies grow older into their teens and twenties, they will parade a front of false knowledge and in essence build a fortress of solitude that little information can penetrate.
I'm not quite there yet.
Z is 7 and AK is 4. Those are fun ages of discovery, curiosity and the insatiable appetite that drives them to ask "Why?". I also know those brains are sponges that are collecting data and storing it in categories which usually revolve around the question, "Would I do that again- Yes or No?". I recognize that and am attempting to give my kids a gift. This gift isn't wrapped, nor is it purchased. The gift is something, actually two things, that I love and want them to love: kayak fishing.
Some Dads want their kids to be a great football player, a doctor, a lawyer, a fireman or something else. Some of us just want our kids to be healthy and responsible. I want my kids to have a hobby and let it grow into a passion. I know my kids. They are a brilliant mixture of their mom and me. I know Z is going to get stressed out in life. He wants everything to go smoothly. He doesn't like conflict. He internalizes. He is going to need a pressure relief valve just like I did. Fishing was my outlet. What I later discovered in 2003 was that combining fishing and kayaking also gave me an endorphin release from the exercise which in turn made me feel better about life. So for you mathletes out there: Exercise + Stress Reliever = Chilled Out Dude with a Good Attitude. That is important.
AK is a different story. She looks just like her mom but her attitude is all me. She is my daredevil. She will try anything if you let her. If she gets bored, she makes her own fun. That is what I did. My parents gave me fishing at a young age and because I grew to love it, I spent most of my teens and twenties fishing rather than carousing and raising hell. Give me some spare time and I'd fill it with fishing. I still do. I hope to pass that along.
I am proceeding slowly with my plan. I could have them at the lake three times a week and kayak fishing could be their soccer, ballet or basketball. I don't want them to see it as a chore. I want them to ASK to go kayak fishing.
Z and I made plans to do a boys trip last Saturday. He likes fishing because he usually gets good snacks, he loves the water like a Lab and it's time spent together. I always have to remind myself, this is a trip for him, not me. He reminds me of it every time. Some days we spend six or seven hours out and some days just one or two. I'd take ten minutes to get to share this with him.
We got to the lake and portaged to the water with all the gear. He thought it was cool the kayak was making a trail in the sand. It looked like a snake trail he said. Before I could hop in the back of the tandem he was poling out to deeper water with the paddle. I grabbed the back of the kayak and hopped in to join him. We talked about the methods of paddling we had gone over on previous trips and he was ready to go.
With Z in the front he couldn't see me but he could sense the rhythm of the paddle strokes I was making behind him. He stayed in sync, left, right, left, right...I was beaming. My seven year old was doing something I didn't do until I was 25. Watching him move a boat three times his length and one and a half times his weight made me glow on the inside. We paddled about 300 yards and took a break. With kids, you have to stop when they need to stop. Watch them. Their body language will tell you. I don't know that he would ever stop if I didn't ask him if we should take a break.
We rested a bit, put our feet in the water, laid down for a spell and just chatted. He had a ton of questions about kayaks, fishing, water clarity, water depth and tons of other kayak fishing related ones. I answered them all and was asking for more. A little while later he was ready to fish. I had purchased some minnows because he loves to observe them, hand them to me, throw the dead ones out and other elementary school experiments. We baited out and drifted for a while. He lounged out in the front and just soaked in the Vitamin D. After twenty minutes and just one fish he was ready to go home. My first instinct was to try to convince him to stay longer but I quickly talked myself out of it. This was HIS trip.
We totaled almost two hours total on the water. I got to spend some time with my son doing something we both enjoy and he got to play in the water, go fishing, paddle the big boat and spend some guy time with Dad. I wasn't sure how they day had registered with him so I asked. He said it was fun but the real testament that the slow and steady pace is working came later. About three hours after we got home he asked when we could go again.
He really liked the gifts. Almost as much as I liked giving them.