I don’t pay much attention to holidays, except that they usually mean it’s a good time to stay away from the water. I do find that Father’s Day is a day I take more seriously now, mainly because it reminds me of the outdoor experiences I had with my father. They are vivid reminders of the best about him, who he was – as well as making me honestly consider, in turn, what kind of legacy I’m leaving for my son. “How do I stack up as a father” is the question I think we all ask ourselves.
The thing that triggered this column was a call the other day from my son David, 28. “Hey Dad, what are you doing?” he asked. “Well, nothing right now,” I replied, “but what do you have in mind,” knowing he wanted to discuss something. “Well, I was thinking that it might be great for a boy to go fishing with his Dad sometime soon!” he shot back.
Honestly, it took me a moment to realize he was calling to set up a fishing trip for Father’s Day! For the last number of years we haven’t gone fishing together much – he had things to do – so it was a shock. It brought up the many times I had hit the lake with my Dad over the decades and made me think about what those trips meant to me then, and how I feel to now have a son who actually wants to go fishing with me. Many dads, I know, never even hear from their kids, let alone have them ask to spend time together. Something was working correctly. What was it?
First, I believe most kids are actually pretty primal, and going on adventures, getting dirty, cold, hungry and hurt do more to bind dads and their kids than any amount of conversation can. Talking is good, but I think there’s a deeper connection we crave that’s based on shared experiences. For some reason, fishing seems to do this as well as anything. By the way, I’m not leaving out daughters. Same thing is at work, if you ask me.
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Second, we have more impact on our kids than we imagine! I believe that our kids “catch” more from us than they usually get taught. Meeting challenges together and overcoming them is the glue I see working each time I go fishing with my son. I’ve felt that’s how you become your child’s best friend – giving you the opportunity to impact their thinking, behavior and your relationship. You’ve become a loved Dad and a trusted friend, able to guide your child. No small thing.
My son remembers so much from his early fishing trips that I’m amazed. I didn’t really think it was having that kind of effect. I watch him cast a big striper pole and I can see he does it better than 99 percent of the guys I fish with. Learned it somewhere! He can also back up a trailer as well as any angler I know. One day, I asked him how he figured out how to back up the boat?
“Well, Dad, I watched you very carefully every time you did it, and I figured out how to turn the tires the way you did!” he said. In fact, he likes to back trailers up into tough spots just to show me how well he’s learned. Show off! (Scary actually.)
Father’s Day is a chance for us as dads to reach and impact our children in ways that go on for generations. Take your kids fishing, and make it an adventure they will never forget. We are in a wonderful sport that everyone puts on their bucket list to do before they pass! Why? There is definitely something special and intangible built into our sport that no one can deny, and many seek it. You are more special and important to your kids than you can know. Pass it on. Happy Father’s Day! Never give up!