Last week, in search of the college my daughter wants to attend, I drove over 1,400 miles around New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. I can’t even begin to count how many streams, rivers, lakes and ponds I crossed over on my travels. At nearly every crossing of a waterbody, I would quickly crane my neck to catch a glimpse. Too often, the sound and vibration of my tire over the rumble strip would bring my focus back to the road. 

With only a glance, I would try to decipher if the waterbody was a trout stream. There were wetlands, bogs, streams, rivers, creeks, gullies, swales, ditches, reservoirs, lakes, and ponds. Welcome distractions from miles of pavement and road signs, each crossing sparked my imagination and desire to explore and fish. 

A Roadside Stream Stop In New York

Before my mind could have a touch of boredom that may spurn a daydream, another crossing would pass our windows, keeping my thoughts of fishing spooling. Steep streams with large boulders and pocket water and meandering rivers with cobble riffles and long sweeping pools led my eyes to look for places to pull off and park along the roads. I wondered how I would approach each stream and what flies and rigs to use. And would I ever get to fish any of those streams?

After a successful series of rainy New England college tours, we headed home. Crossing into the familiar roads of southern Pennsylvania, novel roadside distractions subsided, and I settled into what I had to complete once I got home. Then it hit me. As someone who spends lots of time solving problems or ruminating on stresses in my head, daydreaming and thinking toward future goals and adventures helps me to see a bright light at the end of dark tunnels. Building a habit of looking ahead to relaxation or adventure is a coping mechanism to handle anxiety, but it comes with the cost of not being present to the moment. I was looking out the window and daydreaming when I could have turned my head to the right and connected with my daughter more.    

Within a matter of a few days after our trip, my daughter picked her college (Yay! University of Vermont!) and within two months she will graduate from high school and set off on her way. It is an exciting and stressful time. Her future is before her, and a large change is about to occur. Deep breath. At age 12, parents will have spent 75% of their time with their parents. At age 18, parents and children will have spent 90% of their total time together. I have seen these statistics for years and intellectually it makes sense, but it didn’t register until the last hour of our drive.

My excitement for my daughter is immense, but it is underlain by the sadness of knowing my time with her will be limited and a borderline vicious self-judgment on the job I’ve done as a father. Have I helped her build a foundation for a healthy and happy future? Will she look back at the time she spent with me fondly? Did the divorce leave a hole in her that will limit her? 

Like any parent, I want the best for my children and want to set them on the best course possible. I realize no parent is perfect and every person has their own path to follow. I also fear that my actions, words, and neurosis could impede their ability to navigate their journeys. My hope is that I’ve shown my daughter that nature is healing, learning keeps life moving forward, adversity builds strength, judgment undermines connection, and that beauty exists everywhere if we’re open to see it. I know she has taught me that it takes courage to be yourself and music is a fantastic language for expressing things when we can’t find the words. And sometimes we should stop looking out the window and pay attention to who is right next to us. They matter the most. 

Keep mending…

2 Replies to “Roadside Distractions”

  1. How wonderful to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the out of doors of different states! New England is a special place!
    Pictures of all of you are also special! Kayla looks well!
    There are so many things we would like to do over as we get older. But we do the best at the time. Wisdom comes with the years!
    You have become aware of this wisdom relatively early and it will serve you well!
    Don’t beat yourself up for what comes to you in life! It will work out when love is present!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *