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Why Taking Your 5-Year-Old Son Fishing Can Ruin His Childhood

flickr / Klearchos Kapoutsis

“Do you wanna rent a boat?” I ask, glancing at my 5-year-old son in the rearview mirror.

“No. Boats are scary.”

We pull up to the small white building that had served as Lake Atwater’s bait and tackle shop, since I was Isaac’s age.

“That’s fine.” I agree, pulling my car onto the red clay that served as the bait shop’s parking lot.

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“We don’t need a boat.”

Isaac unbuckles almost before we park and jumps out of the car, running ahead to the door. He struggles with the heavy metal door, so I grab the handle, and Isaac runs inside.

“We’re going fishing!” He says to the lady behind the counter.

“Are ya hon?” Says the woman behind the counter. “It’s a fine day for it.” She’s obese with a large puff of red frizzy hair.

“Gonna need a boat rental today?” she asks, looking towards me, while Isaac eyes the candy on a rack near the counter.

“Boats are scary.”

Isaac turns to face her quickly, “No. Boats are scary.”

“Just a tub of worms for now.”

“And these!” Isaac says placing a pack of Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape and a bottle of Dr. Pepper on the counter.

“Please dad.” He pleads with his perfected puppy-dog eyes.

“And these, apparently.” I say, shaking my head and pulling $10 from my wallet, and placing it on the counter.

She retrieves the worms from a fridge behind the counter, rings up Isaac’s snacks, and hands me my change. “Go to the stop sign, turn left. From there, just follow the gravel road around the lake, past the boat ramp and the picnic area is on your left.”

“Thank you.”

“Good luck guys.” She says with a smile and a wave.

Once parked at the picnic area, Isaac and I find a quiet stretch of grassy bank, and set up shop.

“Do you want to put the worm on the hook?” I ask.

“Eww. That’s gross.”

I untangle his line from the nearest tree. Thirty feet behind him.

So I grab the hook, at the end of his line, very carefully, and begin to thread the wriggling and writhing worm on the hook. A task made much more difficult, because Isaac is trying to cast, or maybe he’s sword-fighting with his fishing pole. All the while, I’m just trying not to lose my thumb. Or my eye. “Okay, Isaac, like this.” I show him how to press the thumb button, and release the button at the right time. The perfect cast!

“Okay. Not bad.” I say, “Let’s try it again, this time without letting go of the pole this time buddy.”

He tries again. Much better. I think he’s got it!

I begin looking through the assortment of lures in my tackle box. They come in all different shapes and colors and most of them, don’t resemble anything a fish would even want to eat.

“Dad! Help!”

I turn to see him swinging his rod back and forth violently, in frustration. I untangle his line from the nearest tree. Thirty feet behind him. I show him how to cast, again, ducking, as he tries to take my head off with his fishing pole.

Success! Houston, the bobber is in the water. I repeat the bobber is now in the water.

Isaac watches the bobber bob up and down on the waves for roughly 36 seconds, before asking, “Can I reel it in now?”

“What?! No! Whatever you do, do not reel it in.” It took us 24 minutes to get the bobber wet, and reeling it in only means casting again.

Every time the bobber moves with the breeze, Isaac looks at me, “Did I catch a fish?”

“Patience, Isaac. Can Daddy put a lure on his line now?” Please.

Isaac starts jumping up and down, screaming, “I caught something, Dad! I think I caught something.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve ruined a perfectly good childhood memory.

Four sticks, a 27-year-old Budweiser can, and all the algae north of the equator later, and I’m thinking of charging the park a fee for cleaning their lake. I never got around to designing the logo for this imaginary company, but had settled on the slogan, “A greener clean,” when Isaac looks at me glumly and says, “I’m bored. Can I use your pole?”

“Why not? Nothing’s biting.”

His casting is improving. At least a third of his casts are landing in the water now. I think to myself, ‘THIS almost resembles fishing…’

“Dad, I think I broke your pole?” Upon closer examination I realize, he has literally snapped the top 2 inches off my pole …

“How in the world?”

“It’s okay, Dad, I can use this!” Isaac says, holding up a 3-foot-long stick covered in algae. He begins thrashing the water violently, screaming like a banshee.

So now I’m ‘fishing’ with a kid’s pole, a bobber and a long since drowned nightcrawler. My pole is broken, sad and crippled, on the dock. My son is covered head to toe in pond scum. And he has every fish cowering in the far corner of the lake.

Somewhere during this period, I catch my first catfish ever.

But now I’m not getting any more bites. Isaac is tired of terrorizing the fish, and seems like he’s getting bored. I start packing up to head home.

“But … But I thought we … We were going to get a boat!” Isaac says, with his bottom lip trembling in full pout.

Now my child is in tears over a boat he said, on more than one occasion that he didn’t want! He’s still crying when we get to the car, and I’m pretty sure I’ve ruined a perfectly good childhood memory. No ‘Father of the Year’ awards given here.

Isaac watches the bobber bob up and down on the waves for roughly 36 seconds, before asking, “Can I reel it in now?”

I load up the car, feeling like a steaming pile of poor parenting while Isaac sniffles and snuffles and occasionally says something about “I want… boat… keep fishing… don’t… wanna… home yet…”

While we wind along the gravel road leading out of the park, the whimpering in the backseat slowly subsides.

“Dad, when can we go fishing again?”

“When daddy recovers, son. When daddy recovers.”

This article was syndicated from Medium.