Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Toddler Hiking and Fishing 3.1 - A Breakthrough!

Just to recap, I am learning on the job here at "Raising an Outdoors Kid in the 21st Century."  We first took Hank on a hike when he was just several days old, and he first fished "with me" (in a hiking back, on my back) at about 9 months old.   The rest of the details have been a little more challenging.  A few things I've learned:

1. If you can't make it fun for the kid, don't even try going.
2. Allow for deviations in the plan, especially for things like chasing ants and listening to bullfrogs.
3. Enjoy said deviations.  Or at least make the best of them.
4. Don't plan on catching fish.  I can illustrate that one.
"Daddy, look! I a dolphin!" 

Damn, that picture makes me laugh.  And groan. Good luck fishing anywhere near there!  Even as recently as March of this year, I was having trouble with basic outdoor parenting stuff - getting Hank to take an interest in fishing seemed impossible, since even keeping him on a damn trail was totally impossible.  But as any parent knows, things can change overnight.   For anyone who doubts that, here are two pictures of Hank in the same spot, just 10 weeks apart.  First one is March 2012, second one is May 2012.

Yeah.  That was fast.  Hank and I have been out twice in the last week and the difference has been amazing.

Does not stand still. 
Breakthrough #1: Staying On Trail.  I will take credit for this.   Hank now stays on trail, and even takes corrections when he starts to get distracted and looks into the woods.  I think this is largely due to the fact that I take him over to my community garden plot a few times a week.  The plots are connected to each other by mowed grass paths, and I repeatedly tell Hank on the way to each garden visit, "Remember, we are going to stay on the GREEN path.  We are not going to play in the dirt."  Where "dirt" equals "other peoples' carefully planted gardens."  We did the same thing on the way to our two recent hikes, with statements like, "OK today we are gonna stay on the path, and we are gonna listen, right?"  "Dat's wight, Daddy!"  hahaha.  He lies.  But he tries.

"C'mere fish! C'mon!!!" 
Breakthrough #2: Not Being Afraid of Fish.  Because of the work we constantly do with Hank about nature, animals, insects, etc., he is comfortable (or at least pretends to be) around animals.  He now occasionally says, "I not afraid of fish.  Fish is good.  Fish is a friend."

Breakthrough #3: A Reason to Fish.   This was the second biggest surprise (to #4).  On our first (recent) trip , which was to the lake a few miles from our home, I didn't bring the fishing rods.  "Why bother?" I thought.  Well, let's just say that Hank was displeased about how I didn't bring his "Spida Man Pishin Pole," and selected a marginally suitable stick to be his stand-in rod.   He explained to me, "Daddy, I wanna say hi to the fish.  I not scared." To which I responded, "How do you wanna say hi to the fish?"

Holds reel under the rod, like Daddy's spinning and fly reels....

Pouring freezing spring water on crotch equals hilarious!
Breakthrough #4: How Fishing Works (theory only).  He responded to the above question by saying, "with my pishin' pole. Fish are scared.  Fish go to da pishin' pole."  He now seems to understand that fish avoid him, and that the fishing rod somehow is involved in tricking the fish into "coming to say hi.  Hi fish!"

There are surely many more challenges ahead, but I'm enjoying that we've turned a couple of small but significant corners. Hank talks about fishing almost daily now, and it's just amazing to watch him grow into the sport.


BrookfieldAngler said...

Congrats, Kirk! Those are some awesome breakthroughs. Be sure to make thorough notes for me...I may need to borrow those soon

Kirk Mantay said...

Hang loose, and beg your wife to be "on the support team." When there's two of us watching him outdoors, everything goes a little easier (and obviously she took some of the photos, which you definitely will want for the memories!).

Three years ago, when Amy was pregnant with Hank, I don't know what I expected from trying to raise an "outdoors kid." It is challenging, because as you obviously have seen, the easiest thing to do with a child is plop him down in front of a TV. Not doing so means that doing what YOU want to do (go outdoors) becomes much less intense and focused on things like killer hikes, big fish, and secret spots. Most outdoor parents I know (of our generation) gladly and happily make the transition (with some frustrations, like mine). You'll do that good or better. I'm confident.

Kirk Mantay said...

oops "and less focused on killer hikes" etc etc etc

Steve Zakur said...

This is going to pay off big time as the years go by. One of my sons enjoys shooting sports the other fishing. I always have a willing partner for sports afield.

Kirk Mantay said...

Steve, it truly is a humbling and wonderful experience. I have no idea what will "take," but I have a feeling that it won't be exactly something I show him - this is planting the seed for him to find his own way outdoors - and I really look forward to learning his passion with him - even though it might not be mine (at all).

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