Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Those Who Wait...

I met my son at the pistol range the other day. He just bought a new Kimber 1911 and wanted to try it out.

There was nothing really significant about the event, except it was one of only two times in recent years we had participated in an outdoors related event together.

My son, who at this writing is in his early twenties accompanied me on many of my outdoor pursuits in his childhood. We both attended our state’s hunter education training as soon as he was old enough to go. I carried him on my back across the marsh to a little island where we put together a makeshift blind to hunt ducks from when he was ten. A year later I took him on an overnight trip to the Texas coast where he took his first duck…a gorgeous drake pintail, on a high left to right crossing shot. I nearly burst the buttons on my shirt that day.

Somewhere along the way, the passion that I had for the outdoors since I was a little boy failed to transfer to my son. Through his teen years, when I dreamed we would be on many more trips to the outdoors, his passion was cars and girls. Now don’t get me wrong, I had those interest at his age too, but there was still room for hunting and fishing.

My daughters also went along on hunting and fishing trips, and they still enjoy going from time to time. My oldest daughter in fact really took a liking to shooting skeet, though college has left her little time to continue that interest.

But (perhaps chauvinistically), fathers often have a strong desire to pass along recreational pursuits to his son that are important to him. For some that might be the love of a professional sports team, or an appreciation of muscle cars. For me it is the love of the outdoors.

When my son seemed uninterested in my passions, I continued to pursue them, but it felt like there was something missing. I felt guilty, that I must have somehow done something wrong ; that I had been inept at instilling a visceral connection with creation. I read all the articles on how to introduce your kids to the outdoors...some of it I did right, and in some cases I did it all wrong. I bought a bass boat so that we could fish together, bought youth model shotguns so that we could shoot together, and all the youth camo the kids needed. I paid for sporting clay coaches and personalized tackle boxes, Spiderman fishing poles and cheap duck calls. I took days off from work when they had an early release from school to take them fishing or camping. But it seemed that the outdoors bug was a passion only for me. I had to come to terms with that universal issue parents face when their dreams for their kids are not the same dreams the kids have for themselves.

Even though I longed to share moments in the field and on the waters with my kids, I let them choose not to go with me. Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe it just wasn't their thing. I am not sure, but I sometimes feel like I just flat failed in this area, and it makes me sad, because the love of the outdoors has given me many fun times and precious memories.

Epilogue : I started writing this post a year ago, and didn't really know how to conclude it. However last weekend my son accepted an invitation to go shoot sporting clays with me and one of my friends. We had a great time, and it was especially fun since my son had just finished his second week at a new job after being out of work for eight months. It seemed that there was much to celebrate. Not only had his personal financial picture taken a turn for the better, but our relationship had as well. After the shoot, complete with all the teasing and joking that guys do, I got a text message from my son that said in part..."that was fun. Let's do that more often, and maybe shoot in some competitions". I was thrilled...not as much from getting to shoot with my son, but more from being able to spend time with him doing something we both now enjoy. In fact we are shooting again this weekend.

Good things do indeed come to those who wait.


Brad said...

Great post, Mark!

Kenneth Van Horn said...

Great post Mark. Sometimes those sentiments are reversed. I have pursuits that I had wished my dad would have enjoyed so that we could have enjoyed them together. As I've gotten older I've been willing to on some level experience some of my father's hobbies just to spend time around him when he's enthusiastic. It would be nicer to have had a father who wanted to let me show him some things to enjoy. Good stuff.

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