Moments of panic can be fleeting jumps of your heart, or they can redefine the course of your life. The illusion that we have control over any aspect of our lives can be a lie that creates security in our minds. Nowhere in my life do I have stronger fears and make as many feeble attempts to control them in my duties as a father. On this Father’s Day, I reflected on moments where I had to face letting my kids explore their lives without direct supervision. Helping to teach the two oldest to drive was a challenge of patience, calming nerves, teaching effectively, and learning to trust their judgment.
On Friday, I experienced another challenge. I dropped two of the kids off at a concert venue to see a show with friends. My mind went through intense anxiety, hoping they were having a good time but scared that they may run into trouble. The other aspect inducing stress was my fear of falling asleep and missing picking them up. Everything went off without a hitch, at least to the extent I am aware, and everyone had a good time and was safe. I had been so wound up that I woke myself early the next morning in a panic that I had left them at the venue.
Being a parent is the ultimate learning experience, with the ability to see your shortcomings and fears in your interactions with your children. You also get the opportunity to have them pointed out to you by less than polite back-talking kids. If you get past defensiveness and insecurity, there is so much to see. My daughter pointed out to me today how I forget that my family worries about me when I am fishing by myself, somewhere far away.
Taking safety seriously is something always on my mind when my children and family are involved, but if I’m being honest, I don’t always follow my own advice. I resist going to the doctor when I feel bad. I wade into water that is too fast and too deep or try to move too quickly through treacherous footing. Watching the weather and being ahead of high winds, heavy rains, or lightning isn’t my strong suit either. “One more cast” tends to dominate “it’s time to go” in my head.
It feels irresponsible and even mean after hearing my daughter’s words and connecting to that feeling of panic that my kids may not be safe. Causing that anxiety in my wife or kids is not a very Dad thing to do. It’s very easy to judge or preach to others but then give yourself a rational escape clause. “It won’t happen to me.” Who am I kidding?
Being on a river is one of my happy places, but flowing water is powerful and dangerous. A false step can be life threatening. Interactions with wildlife and navigating difficult terrain can be catastrophic. I often praise how fly fishing strengthens my ability to concentrate and observe, but do I apply that awareness to all the conditions around me? I don’t think so. Fly fishing for trout is famous for occurring in beautiful places, however they are not without risk. Age is also adding up for me, my mind thinks I can do things that are more of a reach every day. Maybe it’s time to be more of a dad to myself and a little less of a control freak to my kids. Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there. Please keep in mind getting home safe is the most important part of any trip.