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Teaching a Boy to Fish

May 4, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I went to our state’s nature center with my oldest son. We were on a field trip to a destination that his teacher had never before taken kids to see. I was delighted that we were doing something other than going to the zoo for the umpteenth time as most of the other classes were doing.

I think his teacher was as surprised as I was when we heard that one of the activities was going to be fishing. Mind you, we were with a bunch of eight and nine year olds. As we were being led in this, our wildlife instructor told the kids to hold their poles and hooks in a certain fashion and then gave examples of people who didn’t listen and got hooks barbed in them. All I could think about, at least rationally, was the legal liability, but inside I was secretly feeling pleasure. Almost everything is sanitized these days, and I was glad my Boy would have an opportunity to do something basic, something that has been done for thousands of years.

My son had never been fishing before. This is partly because he hasn’t been home that long, and partly because his father would rather sit inside and read a book or blog on the computer. My hubby, who is a wonderful gift from God, killed all the romantic spirit of one of our early dates when he refused to sit out and look at the stars with me on his Papaw’s farm. The road was gravel, and he “might get dirt on his jeans.”

Anyway, back to the fishing. As a child, my uncles took me fishing, but my father (like my husband) would rather figure out a gadget inside the house than get dirty outside the house. His one exception to this was his pride in having a beautiful yard. And, after all, he could always go buy fish if he wanted some to eat.

For me, memories of fishing are reminders of easier days when, as a child, all I cared about was getting a fish to bite, not how am I going to pay for something or how are we going to reach our children’s hearts about a sin habit they have or whether or not the mass they found might be cancerous.

No, fishing was relaxing…sun and sparkling, splashing water, proving that girls could bait their own hooks, and getting a little muddy without caring. It had been a long (as in at least a decade) time since I had done that. I was excited about passing on the bug to my son. After all, his father and grandfathers weren’t carrying on the tradition the way my husband’s grandfather and my uncles had done for us. Some of you may have heard about catching fish with dynamite–you just didn’t know that it started with my husband’s grandpa. My uncles, on the other hand, were purists who spent vacations fly fishing in Oklahoma and Arkansas, or in the salty waters of the gulf. Nothing tasted better than our own fish caught and cleaned at the beach, then fried up that night.

The Boy was wildly excited, giddy with happiness, bouncing with sheer joy at the thought of catching a fish.

And then…

The worms. They. Freaked. Him. Out.

Here he was, with his peers, who mostly were handling it, with his teacher, who caught more than anyone, and with me, who showed him how to do it the first time around. The second time, it was his turn. I knew the feeling he would get after successfully baiting his hook. I had had that same feeling before.

I eagerly awaited his expression.

We never got there.

He picked the worm up (f..i..n..a..l..l..y) and screaming, dropped it to the ground. It almost escaped, but mom deftly caught it and once again baited the hook.

The next time, I told the Boy he must do it. After watching him almost lose the whole container of worms (provied for usage by many people), and seeing him fuss for a few seconds, I gave in.

And then I got the greatest pleasure, because he who baits, fishes. Or in this case, she.

And so, even though he enjoyed fishing when he got the rod back from Mama, I think I enjoyed the experience even more.

Oh, yeah…he did manage to catch one himself! Triumph.

And the next time he fishes? Well, it’s coming up soon, and Mama won’t be around!
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