Fishing and the Original Red Dawn

My husband and I had two daughters and one son. We always said each of our kids had their special place in our family. My daughter was the first and oldest child, which gave her that special space, and my son was in the middle but the only boy so that was special, and my youngest was a girl and the baby so that was her special place.

My husband is and was a great dad and with our son. He had an immediate connection because they were the only guys in the house. It was easy for me to develop a close relationship with my girls. We had a lot in common, not just because we were the same gender, but our personalities fit well together even though we were different in many ways. We had developed a bond easily choosing activities and flowing from activity to activity with ease. We had a connection that was effortless to maintain.  I decided early on that as a mom I would need to make sure that I developed a good relationship with my son. I knew it would not be as effortless as with the girls, but I had had three brothers and I had grown up on a farm. We had gone hunting and fishing, and I was somewhat of a tomboy. So I decide to plan a couple of days together just him and me.

benfishyI took a couple of days off and told him to hitch up the fishing boat. I borrowed a friend’s cabin for the night. I told my son to pack for fishing, just him and me, and I was hoping that what I had planned would meet the clear excitement and anticipation I could see on his face. We got up early the next morning and drove up north to Crookneck Lake by Randall, Minnesota. We launched the boat after careful bait selection at the local shop and with our lunch cooler. We were lucky enough to have a really warm sunny day that allowed a comfortable full day in the boat. We discussed bait choices, depths to try for different fish and sometimes just sat in silence. As the day wore on the conversation became less superficial as we settled into a rhythm and the unwritten understanding in that no topic was off limits and there would be no judgment. We laughed together, we sometimes clumsily pulled in fish together, and we had the best day on the water anyone could hope for.

We caught a small Northern Pike and a crappie just enough for a little dinner. As a little chill started in the air, we made our way to the cabin and I handed my son the staking knife and even though he had seen fish cleaned before he had never actually done it himself. I gave him a few tips as he completed the task and the pride I could see in his eyes trumped the fact that the fillets looked like they had been through a meat grinder. We cooked up the fillets and washed them down with a beer that I brought to share even though he was not quite drinking age.

After dinner we built a fire and I put in the original Red Dawn movie and there alone in the cabin, warm cheeked from the days wind and sun, we watched high school boys save the United State of America with their guns and pickup truck. We shared one more beer and as the movie came to an end we could feel the tiredness, one only feels from all day outdoor activities, and we sunk into our beds. The next day we swam in the lake to cool off after a sunny day in the boat and headed back home.   I knew it would be fun just to be together and do outdoor things, but I did not realize how really special it would be. Such a simple concept that did not require spending a lot of money created a lifelong memory for both of us. Teenage boys are not the best at expressing themselves, but he talked about our fishing trip for years. I would listen with pride when he would always start with, “My mom and I had the best bro weekend ever, we fished and watched Red Dawn up north at a cabin.” In all the things we do as parents that we question and wonder if we did them right, or could have done something better, this was a perfectly planned and executed bonding between mother and son.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Girls1 In 1987, five of my female law school classmates and I went on a weekend get-away.  No husbands.  No kids (for those who had some).  Having just graduated and taken the Bar exam, none of us had much money and we used the cabin of a family friend.  We brought a little food, a lot of liquor and some cigarettes.  (How wild – NOT).

We talked the entire weekend, getting little sleep, but covering everything from working like dogs as Associates in our new firms and where we wanted to be in five years, to husbands, politics and the afterlife.  We came back refreshed and with a Girls2new attitude.

A pact was made that we would make the weekend a yearly event and we have.  The schedule of Fall has had to be juggled occasionally because of pregnancies over the years, but we have remained faithful.  All six of us have children now, and husbands.  We still bring liquor and stay up until all hours discussing everything from child behavior, politics and unwanted hair to ghosts.  We have laughed about going to Court with peanut butter fingerprints on our suit, and how to clean up vomit off the rug without you yourself getting the flu before your big Appellate Court argument.  Oh, how times have changed, but the spirit remains the same.  Now we are all in power positions and the discussion of work is about associates who aren’t working hard enough and how we had it more difficult back when we were associates.  We exchange parenting ideas and vent and laugh about our spouse’s inability to use sani-flush.  We have graduated to weekends flying to Chicago or renting a townhome in a resort community.  Prior to the weekend we have a flurry of e-mail activity about the growing anticipation which is expressed as, I need to get out of town, my hair is on fire.

Sometimes things are shared on the weekend that have never been shared with anyone before.  Tears have been shed by at least some if not all of us.  There is a sense of safety to reach out for help or just be able to unload a burden.  The tears are a release from the divulging of something that has been saved for just the right moment and the right people.  It’s a cleansing of the soul.

I would miss the weekend terribly if I couldn’t go.  It is not only good for us, but good for our families and our careers.  We have had the ability to commiserate and to cleanse, to vent, to find solutions or sometimes find peace.  Too often we sacrifice our own balance and needs in order to care for our families and careers.  However, this commitment to keep ourselves balanced makes us better spouses, parents and partners.  Girls not only wanna have fun, they need to have fun.