“Dada, is this one pokey?”
“Um… cause it’s got a hook on it?”
“They all have hooks son. Careful.”
“Ok, I will. But then… if I get poked a little… then um… then I’ll just be brave. Ok Dada?”
The next day would bring the year’s first fishing trip and we had some serious gear sorting to do. My fishing kit, kept in a grab-and-go state of readiness all spring, summer and fall, had fallen into disarray over the winter. Provisions had been cannibalized by the hunting pack, staples had been depleted and not replenished, mental inventories had gone to seed. We needed to take stock, reload and organize. We also needed to play with our toys and daydream.
“Is the Big Fighter Fish going to eat this fly?” asked E, breathless with anticipation.
“That’s the idea.”
“But can we keep it?” he asked, his voice rising with excitement.
“I hope so. Sometimes they get snagged though, and we lose them.”
“Yea! And then we can bring him home and eat him up and get strong right Dada?!”
“Oh you mean the fish! No Bud, if we catch a fish we’ll probably turn him loose,” I said, bursting his bubble.
“Um… cause why?”
Catch and release wasn’t a new concept to him. We’ve landed plenty of fish together, and released all but one or two. It’d been a couple of months though. I’m learning that, at three and a half, a couple months can be a big deal, particularly when they’ve been filled with challenging new experiences. Hunting season, and the garden-variety developmental leaps of toddlerhood, had shifted his understanding of the world a little bit. He’s learning that ideas which once stayed put in their designated boxes, aren’t always where he left them anymore. He had some sorting of his own to do.
“Well, that way we can catch it again someday,” I explained.
“Ok…um… cause then um… and then we can keep him?” he asked, skeptical of Dad’s mental health.
“We’ll see,” I said cutting him some slack. After all, it’s not his fault that catch and release doesn’t stand-up to kid logic.