Fishing Lessons

Fishing Lessons

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Chris Miller and Joanie Crowe had been neighbors all six years of their young lives.  Their mothers and fathers were good friends.  Liz Miller and Julia Crowe enjoyed gardening and going to yard sales together.  The fathers shared a love of house projects and helped each other when they could.

Everyday in the summer, Chris and Joan met at ‘their” rock which marked the property line in the middle of hilly fields. They always held hands as they ran to the Miller’s pond.  This pond was endlessly fascinating to both children.  For the second summer in a row, they lived to sit on the beaten up dock, watching the water and the fish and the frogs.

On this particular morning, Chris saw two sunfish as soon as they arrived at the pond.  Joan heard a frog jump in.  The children were caught under their own heavenly spell of contentment.  Chris had two small bamboo poles.  He had written a J on one and a C on the slightly bigger one.

The children had decided earlier in the summer that they didn’t have the heart to use worms as bait.  They felt too sorry for the worms.  Instead they used bread and hot dogs.  Their luck at catching fish had been good so far this summer.  Chris was an expert at unhooking their catches and putting them gently back into the pond.

“Do you think the fish think about us?” asked Joan as they baited their hooks.

“Sure they do.  I bet they tell each other how nice we are to take them off the hook and send them back home to family and friends.”  Chris and Joan loved to think about how happy the fish were to be back in their cool, wet world again.

A few breadcrumbs fell into the clear water, attracting fish of all sizes.  Joan looked down at the faces of the beautiful, dark green and orange creatures.

“Chrissy, I love the fish.”

“Me too.  They are like our friends.”

Soon Joan felt a slight tug on the line.  Her bread was taken, exposing a steely barbed hook.  “I’m sort of happy he got away, Chrissy.”

Chris smiled, knowing what she meant.  Joan put a piece of hot dog on the hook and gave the line a little cast.  In seconds, she felt another nibble.  Quickly yanking up the line, she saw a moderately large sunny, glistening in the summer’s air.

“Joanie, that’s a big fish!”

Joan was happy with her good fortune until she realized the hook was embedded in the cheek of her fish.

“Oh no! I hurt you.”  Joan was close to tears as she put her fish in a yellow bucket of water that Chris always filled in case they caught something that they wanted to look at for a minute before returning it to the pond.

“Chrissy, I hurt the fish.”  She was riveted to the fish

“Daddy says it doesn’t hurt the fish when a hook pierces it.  But how could he know that?”  Chris wondered.  “We have to help it.”

Just then, Liz Miller appeared on the dock with two paper cups of lemonade.  She wanted to see how the fishing was going.  Noticing Joan’s sad face as she looked into the bucket, Liz came closer.  Chris was trying to take out the hook but had stopped because he was so afraid of hurting the fish more.  “Mommy, please help!”

Liz looked into the bucket, saw the problem and said, “He looks very much alive.  Maybe you could snip the line.”

Joan’s heart immediately felt lighter.  “I love that idea.  He will be able to swim to his family.  They must be so worried.”

Chris took out his small red-handled scissors and cut the line close to the hook.  Together they knelt at the edge of the dock, tipping the bucket and sending the fish back to his familiar surroundings.  The children watched him swim out of sight.  Joan was grateful that he was well enough to swim.  She looked at their reflections in the water.  She couldn’t believe how sad their faces still looked.

“I am never fishing again, Chrissy.”

“Me neither,” Chris agreed.  “What we really like is being together.  We can just feed the fish.”

“That’s a great thing to realize,” said Liz.  “I know how much you love the fish, so maybe it’s not a good idea to keep hooking them.  Something like this was bound to happen.”

“We never meant to hurt them, Mommy,” Chris explained.

“I know that, Chrissy,” his mother answered.  “But if you see yourselves in the fishes’ place, you will understand today a bit differently.  You are swimming happily in the pond.  You see something that looks like food, take a bite and suddenly you are yanked in the air.  On the dock you can’t breathe, you gasp for air.  A giant takes the hook out of your mouth, holds you a minute and then throws you back in the pond.  A happy ending, but you probably wouldn’t like to be that fish, right?”

Chris and Joan looked at her, speechless.

“Oh my, that sounds awful,” Joan’s voice trembled.

“I never thought of it like that,” Chris said.  “We thought we were being nice to the fish.  We love them.”

“You are two sweet little kids,” Liz said.  “You learned a lot today.  Please don’t be sad anymore.  Joan, your mother and father are coming over for a cookout later, and you can tell them all about the fish and this big day.  Now how about a cookie for each of you?”

“Thank you for helping me and the fish.”  Joan smiled.

This parent helped the children in many significant ways.  She understood and acknowledged their sad feelings.  She helped them find a solution to the problem, which made them feel so much better.  Her pace was totally in sync with their hearts.  The children were so happy to know they had not permanently harmed the fish.  Then, she helped them to understand their actions and assumptions in a new way, as she led them to put themselves in the fishes’ position. Finally, she brought them back to a positive frame of mind with a snack and a happy plan.  Throughout it all, she was encouraging the children to feel deeply and to care about all living things in a more sophisticated way.  This day will stay with them throughout their lives.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

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