The Dude and I purchased two kayaks this past weekend. Since his birthday is coming up (his 34th, which, he likes to remind me, is still a year less than his lovely wife) I treated him to a “Dude Day” where we could go and do whatever he wanted, sans kiddies. If you’ve never experienced the pure joy of shopping with five children under the age of nine in tow, you seriously haven’t lived. So you can imagine how liberating it was to casually stroll the aisles of Dick’s sporting goods without having to worry about your three-year-old ingesting fake deer’s urine or catching your nine-year-old taking a lingering look at the wall-sized poster advertising women’s sports bras.
The Dude ended up selecting some fishing rods and gear, and while we attempted to catch something, anything later that night, the notion of kayaks struck us as a good one.
So now there are two small vessels in my garage, and I have to say that I’m pretty excited about using them this coming Friday. Our plan (Ha! more like foolish daydream) is to take children numbers 1 through 4 for late-afternoon fishing and kayaking. I say “daydream” because in my mind I picture The Dude, wearing his new fishing stuff, standing serenely in the water while he reels in the catch of a lifetime. The children will be happily engaged, of course – little #4 will be daintily building a sandcastle, and numbers 1 and 2 will be out with their dad, fishing like the big guys that they are. I will be patiently showing child #3 how to bait a hook and cast a line, and when he trots off to fish for himself, I will barbecue hot dogs and the day will end with us all chowing down – happily smiling and cooperative – on a perfectly spread table cloth. Red-checked, of course.
This is what the irrational, illogical part of my brain has lead me to believe will happen. But my cynical, serious-minded lobe tells me that the trip will is more likely to include any one of the following scenarios: a) an over-turned kayak and a traumatized child who will probably develop some sort of Roman Polanski-ish water phobia, b) a fish hook in a ear, possibly an eye, c) general sunburn, mosquito bites, and spanks all around, or d) a return trip filled with bitter wailing and gnashing of teeth because nobody caught a fish. It’s all about creating happy memories, folks!
To be completely honest, fishing makes me feel inadequate. It reminds me of how disappointed I am in the person I’ve become. It makes me feel like a fraud. When I was little, I was not the sweet, demure girl that you all know and love now. I was 100% tomboy. I was constantly filthy. I was nearly always in a tree or catching lizards (which, like all Florida kids, I tormented into opening their mouths and then clipped them onto my ears like reptilian jewelry), or investigating cicada shells, or pretending to be some sort of combination army person/survivalist/shipwrecked precocious child (I had a very active inner life, clearly.) I couldn’t be bothered to go inside the house for a bandaid if I happened to cut myself. You know what I did? I rubbed sap in it. Or maybe some dirt. Yes. That’s how I rolled. I still wonder how I didn’t get tetanus or anthrax.
Anyway, the truth is that, even though I was the female Steve Irwin of my neighborhood, now I can’t even bear to be within a foot of a lizard. I might touch a cicada shell. With a broom. And climbing a tree? I tried to do a handstand the other day and nearly broke my face, so any sort of arborist dreams I may have had are strictly out. And the thought of touching a fish – of putting a live, squirming shrimp onto a hook – is, to put it mildly, totally unappealing to me. I had to force myself to wade out into the knee-deep brackish water to fish with The Dude this past week. All of these things make me think, “What have I become?” I never wanted to be the squeamish mom. I wanted to be the jack-of-all-trades mother. The one who, when her children come running into the house screaming that they’ve just seen a snake, sets her jaw, grabs the garden hoe, then marches out to the yard and cuts its head off with one fell swoop. Her children are gathered behind her, staring open-mouthed in wordless admiration (I picture her with some sort of red bandana tied around her head and a large, white apron flapping) and they are suddenly very aware that Mama can take care of it. Mama is in charge. Mama is awesome.
So, my plan this Friday is to totally fake it. I’m going to grab those wriggling shrimp and jam them on the hook like it’s my job. I’m not going to wince when I step on something slimy and moveable in the water. And when I reel in that mackerel, I’m going the pick it up without saying, “Shit! Gross!!” and I’m going to fillet that sucker with nothing but my teeth and my bare hands. And even if my ‘foolish daydream’ completely falls apart and the day ends with tears and disappointment, my kids are going to lay their heads down that night thinking that their Mama is awesome.