Dad was good at "making it special"

Making it Special

My father is a special guy and I would like to tell you about one of the  memories I have of him from my childhood and youth. Dad grew up in Newport, RI and was an avid fisherman. Honest, he was really good!

Dad fishing as a boy, Dad with fish
Here’s a photo of my Dad at age 10 with a nice catch of mackerel.

Dad was not only good at fishing, he had a passion for it. He took me fishing when I was four, and helped me catch my first fish at that age using a toy fishing rod (which he modified). We lived a bit more than half an hour from the ocean, so we didn’t do much salt water fishing, but I remember a couple of times, when I was around 6 and 7, that he snuck off (without me or my brothers) and did some winter time salt water fishing at night or early morning. One time he returned home with the largest fish (a striped bass) I had ever seen. Other times he brought home buckets of delicious fish. Naturally I wanted to go with him, and pretty soon he started taking me with him.

Interestingly, whenever Dad took me saltwater fishing in the winter, we caught nothing!

Mind you, I was a pretty good fisherman and fished constantly at home, yet, for some reason, every time Dad took me for striped bass or whiting (winter/salt water fishing) we were both skunked. We never caught a thing. Yet to this day, these predawn fishing trips are some of my fondest memories of time spent with Dad. We got up hours before daybreak, drove to the shore and endured some really cold weather. Sometimes the ocean spray would freeze on our coats and hats. We’d fish until after dawn and then head home… with no fish. Why, then, do I have such great memories of these times?

Dad was good at making it special when we went on these fishing trips.

  • It was always obvious that he was quite happy to take me. He was never grudging about it. Of course, I recognized the strange coincidence that my presence seemed to eliminate his chances of catching something, yet Dad’s whole demeanor told me that “this was a special time,” one which he relished.
  • When we caught nothing, Dad was unfazed. He’s just say, “Well, maybe next time.” Indeed, I’m pretty sure we were doing everything right and our fishless streak was coincidental.
  • Dad made it his custom that we’d stop, warm up, and get a donut and hot chocolate on the way home. Again, his whole demeanor indicated that he was having a great time with me, as we enjoyed our time.
  • Once he started taking me with him, I don’t believe he ever “snuck off” without me.  Until I left the home he was always quite happy to invite me along. And finally…
  • He himself never mentioned the fact that we never caught fish when I went along.
Family photo ca 1969
We never did get a photo of ourselves going fishing. Here’s a family photo.

Blog: How to Get Into Homesteading points out the importance of “making it special” for kids.

Some lessons learned from my dad’s example:

  • People are more important than success measured by any other criteria.
  • There can be stages in a family’s life, when one may find it impossible to “produce” or do all the things they might like because people take time. People should take precedence over things.
  • When mentoring one should always recognize the great worth of the one mentored, and that, apart from their success or failure in the endeavor.
  • Relationship is so very important for being able to speak into another person’s life. My dad has always been one I listen to carefully.
  • Being an effective mentor involves much more than knowing the subject matter, it involves being a special person in the other’s life.

An effective mentor doesn’t just know the subject matter, he is a special person in the other’s life.

If we want to pass on our passion to the next generation we need to cultivate relationship. In the context of skills and interests we can do this by “making it special” when we do these things with children and young people. Make it fun!

The Science of Dad & “The Father Effect” is an article which discusses the special importance of fathers. (Moms too, are important.) Indeed you don’t even have to be a parent to be a mentor.

4 thoughts on “Making it Special”

  1. We learned long ago, in our family; the fish, nor the game, make the trip worthwhile … It’s all about spending good times with the ones you loved. My Uncle Otis, my little brother, James, nor I, ever once killed a single rabbit, but we had the greatest hunting trips ever! Hands down, those were the best of times and will always be remembered fondly and cherished with great happiness. I’m pretty sure there was a good reason Aunt Mandie always kept a fresh pot of beans on the stove. 🙂

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