Parenting takes time. Not just any time; the catch phrase is “quality time." So just what is quality time? Borrowing loosely from one of our Supreme Court Justice's statements on pornography, I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.
Author Dr. Gary Chapman says, “Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention.” It is not the day-to-day, pick-up-your-room, do-your-homework and be-nice-to-your-sister type of time, as important as that is. It likely is not active team sports-type time. That's also important, but there is way too much going on to slow down and communicate, you know; just talk. For me and my daughter, it happened on a trout stream throwing a fly.
I’m not a purist; you can fish with bait or a lure, if you prefer. And while it bothers me a bit to say, there is a small chance that, for you and your child, it may be something other than fishing. For my wife and daughter, it happened through a love of vocal music. Steve Lorenz on The Journey Dad website says it well: “As a father, I absolutely cherish the fact that I get to share a passion with my son. I would encourage you to do the same.”
The most important part of this type of quality time is to share something that you love that brings you joy and gives you time to talk.
Start early with your child and gear the activity toward the physical capabilities and attention span of your child. My daughter began fishing as a toddler, hitting the water with a fly rod and calling loudly, “Here fishy fishy!” When she'd had enough we would sit on the stream bank, she in my lap, and talk a bit. From this, a pattern was set. As you child grows the time engaged in your special activity will increase, their skill level will grow, the conversations will deepen and the bond between you will strengthen.
Do not make the mistake of using this time to discipline. If you do you may find your child less enthusiastic about the prospect of spending this time together. I will tell you, however, on many occasions my daughter and I had conversations on the decisions she made that may have caused some kind of consequence. But the discussions were just that, discussions, and the whole experience became a teaching moment.
Don’t be too surprised if, at some time during those “tween” years, your child appears to resist going with you. At some point, it just won’t be cool to go with dad. You may even get the question, “How come I have to do this?” Don’t get upset; go as planned and take them anyway. Once you are there, things will settle down. Soon, it will be just another discussion on the river, and before either one of you know it, you will just be fishing.
Over the years of fishing with my daughter, the topics ran the gamut one would expect of a little girl growing to womanhood. This became my chance influence her ideas on such things as dolls, puppies, fashion, morals, boys (that one nearly killed me more than once), faith, family, school, career, courtship, marriage and, most recently, motherhood. Yep, as you may be able to tell, we still fish together on occasion, just the two of us.
While I personally highly recommend fishing as the vehicle to implement this special time with your child, anything that you love to do will work. The endeavor is not without effort, but then nothing worthwhile ever is. And the chances are, if you’re like me, I was going fishing anyway.
Guy Bliesner is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Guy has been married for 26 years and has three children.