By Tonia Jones
"Fishing Lessons "
This is one of my favorite times of year because CJ is on summer break from school and we get to spend more time together. This being so, I am provided with ample opportunity to snag those "teachable moments" with him, imparting the wisdom and experience that I, mother, the source of all Good has to share.
This past weekend CJ and I went to our favorite fishing hole for a couple days of communing with nature and relaxing with our rods in hand. There we were on the dock, both of our fishing lines complete with squirming, yummy minnows, patiently waiting for that first nibble from our evening dinner. Patiently that is, for about 10 minutes until CJ started squirming and complaining like the minnows because he wasn't getting any bites yet.
Ah yes…here I was faced with my first teachable moment of the summer in which to impart some important life lessons to my son. In my own deep and empathic way, I shared with my 7 yr. old how fishing can teach us so much about life in terms of delayed gratification, tenacity and focus. Yes, fishing offers not only the opportunity to "live off the land" but gives us the chance to practice qualities that can assist us in our every day living. CJ listened patiently and agreed to exercise more self-control. (He's such a good boy.) Sure enough, his dedication paid off and before long he caught the first fish of the day. A fine sunfish about the size of the palm of your hand. (A small palm.) He and I were so proud of his conquest that we took a picture of him with his prize, then, we went back to fishing, CJ being ever so patient and focussed.
Danged if I couldn't catch the fish that had eaten at least 6 of my minnows! Finally, I was so frustrated that I yelled "DAMN" because I had pulled up my line, only to discover that yet again I had been robbed of my bait. The moment I cast that word out of my mouth, I wished I could reel it back in. I found myself hoping that CJ had suddenly been struck temporarily deaf. No such luck. The little pitcher with his big ears had heard and seen the patience and focus in action that I had been teaching him about just moments before. As I sheepishly began to bait my hook again, CJ very calmly patted my arm and said, "it's o.k. Mama. If you're getting frustrated, maybe you could take a break".
As my son very lovingly imparted his insights regarding the life lesson of "some things are important and others are not", I was reminded of the time I had seen a woman in a department store disciplining her 4 yr. old. She was screaming at her child to stop yelling and act her age. I was also remembering the father I had observed once spanking his six year old and with each slap of his hand telling her "don't HIT your sister!". On these two occasions I had felt a subtle pride and superiority to these parental units. Clearly, they weren't the sharpest tools in the shed when it came too effective parenting. I on the other hand, am conscious enough to know that it is our actions that children learn from more than what we say or try to beat into them. I would NEVER behave in that way, humph! …Obviously, I was mistaken.
You might think that there are worse things than yelling a curse word out of frustration in front of your child. Maybe, but the bigger issue seems to be, can we expect our children to trust and respect what we tell them is "right", if we are not doing the same? I don't think so. What messages are we giving them about life, themselves and others when we tell them to act a certain way, yet we behave in the exact same fashion that we are saying is inappropriate?
Our fishing trip that day turned out to be a great success. I never did catch that grandaddy of a fish that was stealing my bait, but I think CJ and I hooked something more important; the teachable moments that were made available to us.
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