|A tough evening fishing in South Florida|
He fails more than he needs to because he insists on doing everything himself. But the boy catches fish. Twice in 2015, he caught fish on days when I caught none.
At some point, his laser focus will move away from fishing, and towards another conquest, hopefully also in the outdoors. And I'm fine with that. I love the memories and skills we're building together right now. But in those memories and special moments, there is a pressure inside of him that I don't understand and that I hope I didn't create. My child thinks I am a fishing icon, you see. You may want to cheer, but please don't. Let me explain why.
My fishing skills are squarely "adequate," something that's been amply documented on this site over the past nine years. My fishing guide skills are abysmal, but I try really hard, and as a habitat ecologist, I do know a lot of random stuff about critters, so that helps sometimes. My effectiveness as a teacher? That's one of those "not enough data points to establish a relationship" kind of things.
What I struggle with is that my boy presses on, as if he has some standard to achieve, which he believes is me. He believes I am the embodyment of Jose Wejebe, Ernest Hemingway, Bill Dance and Lefty Kreh all in one, and that he needs to achieve that every time we fish. Of course, I am none of those men, and my son has nothing to aspire to beyond what he's creating for himself.
|RIP Crappie Maxx Jr. Reel, 2014-2015. Cause of death: thrown in sand.|
But that's when it all went wrong. I zinged that $12 lure off of a piling and into some lily pads and a small explosion occurred, and the game was on. After three aerials and about a four minute fight on my light tackle setup, my easily eight pound monster Florida bass broke my 8lb mono line at my feet, escaping with my $12 lure back into the deep black water.
My emotions went through the usual cycle, though I kept my language in check. I almost threw my rod in the canal, which would have been expensive, so I'm glad I didn't. Hank patiently observed my emotional trip around the world, and hung his head and said, "You caught a ginormous fish and I didn't catch anything." The seemingly important detail that I didn't actually catch the fish didn't phase him. Despite my massive failure in retrieval style and gear selection, or my failure to ever (EVER) pack a landing net, my status as Daddy Fishing God clouded the events, displaying that I "basically almost caught a big fish." It also was lost on Hank that I had been trying to catch such a fish, at that spot, several times a year, for five years, with no luck. I was the day's winner, making him (inexplicably) the day's loser. The emotional meltdown that followed was heartbreaking.
I don't know enough about children's minds to know how this reasoning plays out, but it's very tough when I work very hard to make sure that kids who fish with me have the best and most opportunities to hook and land fish. But when they don't (and especially when my son doesn't) succeed, it's hard to convince them that their adult guide, mentor, or icon doesn't have plenty of those same frustrating days. I'll be devoting some thought in the next four months to some techniques that might help break this damaging iconography in my son's mind.