Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Nature Hunters

Growing up in Michigan, my sisters and I spent a lot of time outdoors. When we were younger our grandparents had a cabin and we couldn't wait to get up there to go frog huntin'. As we grew older, we enjoyed camping and just being outdoors. My boys are no different.

When we first moved in this house some 15 years ago, I'll never forget the first night. We had just moved from Ann Arbor, on a busy street where an ambulance or siren of some sort was the norm, to the country, where all I could hear were frogs, cicadas and crickets. It scared me to death. It was dark, but the animals were loud. Sometimes we'd hear a coyote. It was scary,  at that point in my life I'd rather have zooming cars and traffic noise to crickets. But as an adult, I've learned to love those sounds. They are peaceful and bring back Summer memories of playing with my sisters.

While I'll have many fond memories of this particular Summer in Michigan, I'll never forget how my boys woke up each morning and were ready for an adventure.  (And let's be honest, they needed to get out, they are just easier to control when they do). There were days I couldn't even get them out of their PJs before they pulled open the door and raced outside.

 Sometimes we'd just have free play. Sometimes I'd have them play in the sandbox, a mud puddle or just walk the track. But sometimes, when we were really ambitious, and very full of energy, we'd put on our finest adventure seeking wear, and we would head outdoors with gusto. We were not always sure what we would find, so we came prepared for everything.

We have done everything in this backyard: found tree frogs, went tadpole and frog hunting, caught butterflies, splashed in mud after the rain, ran away from dragons, planted a garden, and have even done science experiments with different things we've discovered and collected. 

But, I think one of my fondest memories from this Summer will be the day Henrik caught his first fish. I had mixed feelings about it initially. Eric is the fisherman in our family and while I think it's fun, I didn't want to take that first fish away from Eric and his son. So, when Hanky expressed interest in catching a fish, I called up Eric and asked him if it would be okay if we tried to catch one. Of course Eric said we could go. What kind of father wouldn't? But I knew in his heart he wanted to be there to see the smile on his son's face when we caught a big one. 

I decided that I'd take Hank to the store to get a pole and some lures. The whole day, Henrik talked about catching a "big one" and being like Daddy catching fish. He even talked about cooking a fish to eat! So not my child. I could see the excitement and pride in his eyes and smile when he talked about fishing, it was as if big boys could go fishing and the thought of getting his OWN REAL fishing pole?! NO WAY! That was even better! When I told Eric what I bought he told me that I was more likely to catch fish with worms instead of lures in our pond. I wasn't thrilled about that, but hey, catching worms is pretty fun so why not?

One of the things that's happened to me as I've become a mom, especially of boys, but as a parent in general, is that I've tried not to let my fears get in the way of giving my kids different experiences. That means I have to catch spiders and hold them in my hand while my boys closely examine it, and I have to do it with poise and tranquility so they don't get scared or shy away from it. So there was something cool about being able to dig for worms and suck up the fact that I'd have to stick it on a hook. I guess I was proud of myself for doing it. And for a minute, instead of fighting with me over something silly, Henrik thought I was the coolest thing ever because I was getting worms to go fishing with. I was proving to my son that girls could do what boys do, and I was proving to myself that I could do it too.

Once we were fully stocked on live bait, we headed down to the pond. I can't really explain how it happened because it happened so fast, but as soon as Henrik threw his first cast he got a fish! I had to help reel it in because he wasn't doing it fast enough. The whole time I reeled, Henrik told me to do it faster as he jumped up and down with excitement.

His first fish was a Blue Gill. He didn't want to touch it, instead, he just wanted to look at it. I'm sure he could have examined it for days, but I told him it was time to put him back. As soon as our little Blue Gill swam away, Henrik wanted to do it again. So, I hooked up another work and BAM! In the blink of an eye, we'd caught another one! Henrik reeled in this one, but it was bigger so he had to work for it a little bit.

His second fish was a Rock Bass. And this one he was even more proud of. It was the kind of fish Daddy fishes for. He also was able to reel it in and hold it himself. He actually said, "I'm so excited! I caught a fish I caught a fish!" while dancing in place. It was adorable and a moment that every parent wants to see. I only wish Eric could have been there to dance with him.

For maybe two hours the boys and I caught and released fish. We scoured the pond for tadpoles and frogs and just sat on the bank of the pond and enjoyed the whole ecosystem over there. It was the perfect day. And while I know Eric would have loved to be a part of this whole experience, I've got to think that Eric is happy for me because I got to do something with my boys that moms don't typically get to do. I know Henrik was happy, and that's all that really matters when we get right down to it.

I don't know how often we will be in Michigan for the Summer, right now they've only known Summer in Michigan, but that may not be the case down the road. Whatever our schedule looks like, I hope that the boys will grow up knowing the wonderful adventures and excitement we've had over life's little things in Mimi and Pop Pop's backyard. And I hope that when they think about Michigan and the time they've spent here that they do remember their Summer quests for a better understanding of nature. For me, there's something romantic and magical about Summer and nature. Right now, the boys are just trying to soak up every ounce of whatever is new to them, and that's magical too. When they see a butterfly up close they are inspired by it's incredible strength but fascinated with how delicate it is, and they are amazed that it was once a caterpillar. When they touch a fish they are curious about it's scales, it's ability to stay under water and how come they are so hard to reel in. When they see a tree frog they are excited about it's ability to be so sticky and camouflaged. These are traits that are just part of who the boys are at this age, but it's this curiosity and love of what is around them that inspires me and makes Summer and our adventures so magical. I hope they keep this majestic and excited feeling for years to come.
(And I wouldn't mind if they keep the outfits either.)

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