How A Fish Explained The Hardest Part About Parenting To Me
I’m in debt to a fish.
The fish, who in 10 seconds, explained my parenting conundrum to me.
Keep your expert books, parenting websites.
I have clarity now.
Thanks to the fish.
You see, Dear Reader, my daughter is a senior in high school.
We are in the season of looking at colleges.
So much has changed since I went 10,000 years ago.
These days, the kids put everything they want in a school and a software program spits out colleges that could be a match.
Including schools you might never consider.
Which explains how Daughter and I ended up along the shores of Lake Mendota at the University of Wisconsin.
A fine school,
Though one that no one in our family has any ties to.
That explains how we got there.
What I couldn’t wrap my head around was how I found myself here.
At this place.
That I know so many parents have struggled with.
Perhaps, even you.
Talk about a crazy model.
You pour your heart into raising this kid,
Investing every drop of love and effort.
Endless days and years flying by too quickly.
Just like that,
You’re just supposed to let them go.
What other investment is structured like this?
Early on the morning of our visit, I headed out for a run along the beautiful lake that hugs the campus.
That’s when I saw him.
The guy in a boat.
Fishing pole in hand.
Looked like he’d been there since long before the sunrise.
Talk about timing.
I come along just as he’s pulling a fish out of the water.
His smile was wider than the grandest Great Lake.
The fish not so much.
That fisherman must had been there for hours.
Poured everything into that endeavor.
Scored a fish.
Grabbed the fish,
Took out the hook.
Held it away to admire it, making sure he hadn’t done too much damage.
Took a picture.
One last long glance.
And then held the fish over the side of his small motorboat and let it go.
One splash and the fish was off.
That’s when it hit me.
This parenting thing is just like fishing.
Catch and release.
You catch some random kid.
Mine was through adoption.
Yours could’ve been through in vitro, maybe an accident, but face it, it’s pretty random the kid you hooked.
You hold them close.
Take a bunch of pictures.
Admire your work.
Hope you didn’t too much damage.
And then, ultimately, release.
They swim off.
This is how it works.
Catch and release.
I figured it out just as the fish was about to splash into the lake.
I’d swear he winked my direction before he took off.
The guy was focused on the water.
Following that fish as long as he could.
Smiling at the joy the fish gave him during their short time together.
And the biggest gift he could’ve ever given him.
And letting him go.
And if you enjoy this column on parenting, you might like my book–