posted on July 06, 2011 08:51
I made a mistake.
This is nothing shocking to my wife, as I’m sure she could come up with a quite a list, but we’re all human and the best laid plans can fall apart in blink of an eye, especially when you’re talking about young kids outdoors.
As any frequent reader will recall, when I’m outdoors at least one, if not all three of my children is part of the outing. It’s bonding time for dad, and outdoors 101 for the kids as well. I wouldn’t trade any of these usually simple times for a two-week elk hunting trip to the mountains. Not a chance.
I do understand the priority needs to be on the kids, ages 4, 7 and 9. While they are well skilled at baiting hooks, casting and reeling, they’re not quite at the age where I can turn my back and actually try my own luck at landing a few fish.
Along the way I’ve learned a few tricks to hooking kids on fishing. Sunscreen and bug spray are almost as important as a favorite snack. If a pink Barbie doll rod can lure your daughter along, it’s an inexpensive investment in a potentially life-long hobby.
When it comes to snacks, an outdoor outing is a time for temporarily suspending household health and nutrition guidelines, as a special favorite treat is great way to forge a positive association with fishing.
The philosophy of planning for the worst and hoping for the best is a good one to take along on a fishing trip with youngsters. Hope for a sunny enjoyable afternoon, but realize that in the Midwest, a light shower is a possibility no matter how the day begins. A good plan B can help salvage the day before it’s lost.
Now, back to my most recent mistake. My older two were busy casting and retrieving their hook and minnow. Each has had a couple sessions of swimming lessons and the edge of the pond was about ankle deep to me and knee deep to them, so I felt comfortable sitting down for a second.
Meanwhile, only a few feet away from me, 4-year-old Grace had found a piece of trash and as any parent can tell you, it doesn’t take much to draw the focus of a toddler. As she thrashed it a couple times with her fishing pole, she slipped off the bank and her feet went into the pond.
Before I could even reach for her, she’d pulled her feet out of the water and onto dry land. The sneakers were hardly wet and her initial reaction suggested it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it didn’t take long for tears and cries for Mom to overcome her.
I’ve learned enough from a few other events to know I had about 60 seconds to win her back or come up with a new plan. I could tell in this case that dry socks, a snack or dad trying to sing a song was not going to remedy the situation. So I called my wife and within about 20 minutes, Mom was there to save the day.
So it wasn’t a perfect outing, but anyone who’s taken a kid fishing knows that perfect outings are few and far between. The key is that despite the minor mishap, it was still a “positive” outing, which means that we’ll be out there again and I’ll be a bit better prepared to avoid the same mistake.
Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email:firstname.lastname@example.org