Almost every day for the past two years, my 10-year-old has asked to go fishing. Some days it has been possible and other days it has not. I often explain to him that there will be many things in his life he will want to do that will come easily to him. They will arrive in various ways, and will far exceed what, as parents, we could provide any given day. “So you are not taking me fishing,” he would reply making it clear that my clever semantics were lost on him … Almost.
He has a passion. He has fished the canals in Copenhagen, the remote and pristine Lake Bled in Slovenia, the crystal clear bays of Malta, beautiful Lake Bolsena in Italy, and many places in between. The days that fishing was not possible, he would often fill an Amazon cart with dream fishing gear based on dream locations. He has been known to sketch fish, write to fishing magazines with questions or look up scientific names of fish. His favorite pastime is to talk to other fishermen about their legendary stories. He tucks these tales in his memory and shares them with a fisherman by the shore the world over. He has learned about everything from the Irish potato famine to the Mayflower by asking questions about fishing. It is his lens.
Last week, after our first night on Orcas Island, my son was up at 5:30 AM, gear ready, and eating his breakfast. He was on the dock by sunrise and there he stood. He caught little perch and bullhead, and never kept anything he didn’t plan to eat. He loves to catch and release because he studies the fish in a very tactile and respectful way. He was completely at peace and spent the entire day in the same spot, casting and chatting with folks coming and going.
That afternoon, as a professional fishing charter was coming in from a king salmon (scientific name: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) expedition, the captain noticed my son still in the same spot as when his charter left seven hours earlier. The professional guide’s name was Sky and he exchanged tips and joked with our son about their common passion. As I watched my 10-year-old from a distance, I noticed something profound happening that is harder to appreciate up close.
I answer a lot of questions about how my husband and I educate our children and handle their socialization outside of a traditional school environment. Our son, at this moment, was engaged in something he was deeply passionate about, talking to an adult who shared his passion. There was an animated glow coming from the interaction that was magnetic but I stayed back. This was his time to explore his passion. I knew he could hold his own and I trusted his judgment.
Within an hour, the ladies who had paid for the charter trip fell in love with my son’s passion for fishing and invited him to their sunset salmon charter. When he came running to our condo asking my permission, there was nothing to say but “yes!”
As he motored into the sunset with five adults with a shared vision, I watched him from a distance. When the boat quietly motored into the marina after dark, I waited on my nearby porch stretching to hear excited anglers with their catch. Although everything in me told me to run to the dock, I stayed put. This was his hello and his goodbye. I watched him exchange hugs, graciously thank everyone, and share with the captain that “today was the best day of my life so far,” in that heartfelt way only a kid can deliver with gusto.
If he had complained on the dock earlier of not catching any fish, or seen his parents as the only people capable of helping him achieve his dreams, or even known how much money he needed to save to charter a fishing boat and a guide, this dream would have taken much longer to materialize.
He created this experience by engaging in something he loved without forcing any results. He reminded me that the path of least resistance is directly linked to how much joy I am capable of experiencing in this moment. All doors open from that place. It seems so simple yet it was a profound reminder.