It wasn’t the fish

You know how there are some statements that parents should never make? Like, I will never give my child cookies for breakfast. Or, I will always listen to my child. Or, I don’t like to go fishing.

When my kids were invited to a special group outing that included fishing poles and bait, guess who had to drive? MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought I could set up a chair at the pond’s edge, get out a book, and enjoy the late summer afternoon while all the children flung hook and bobber into the murky depths. Somebody else was the fishing expert.

Yeah, I volunteered to be a driver.

I had gotten settled in and read a couple of chapters when I heard my daughter shout. She stood on the dock, pole held high in the air, fish squirming at the end of the line.

Great.

She wanted me to bring the tackle box. I jammed the bookmark in place and marched through the thick grass to the dock.

“Look at my fish! We gotta get the hook out before it gets hurt.”

Sure. I set the tackle box on the rough wood the dock, flipped open the top, and gazed into the tangle of hooks, bobbers, weights. How did one get the hook out?

She sensed my confusion. Or just got impatient. I’m never sure which. “Grab those pliers, Mom.”

OK, I knew pliers. I lifted the metal tool and held it out to her.

“I can’t do that,” she said with a voice that sounded something like a jet engine starting up.

Like I could? “I don’t fish,” I said. Clearly a boundary was in order here.

“I’ll hold the fish and you get the hook out,” she said, gripping the squirmy fish in her nine-year-old hands.

Um, I don’t get hooks out. I stared at the fish, which stared back. This was no time for a “who blinks first” contest.

I drew a deep breath. Parenting involves courage more than you’d think. Extricating a hook from a fish’s mouth ranks pretty high on my “don’t want to do this” list but it had to be done. I stepped closer.

She squeezed the fish’s mouth open and I raised the pliers, trying to find the right grip. Stalling.

And I got hit in the face with a blast of pond water.

I wanted to blame the fish but I looked up then to see my young son standing a few feet away from me, holding a stained and wrinkled paper cup. An empty paper cup.

He stared at the fish while I stared at him.

Then he saw me staring and he shifted his weight. “I grabbed the cup from by the pond,” he said. “And I scooped up some water.”

Why?

“I didn’t want the fish to die before you got the hook out and I thought it might take a while,” he said with little-boy eyes cushioned in fat cheeks.

“So you scooped up the water and threw it in my face?”

He shrugged and tossed the cup down. “I missed him.”

There are some things a parent shouldn’t say. But one I still cling to is this: I don’t like to go fishing.

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