There have been so many times when I have felt like I was not thriving but barely surviving motherhood. By far, one of the most challenging was when my youngest was crying all the time, as you probably recall from my previous letter. Funny, but as is often the case with 20-20 hindsight, I can see a tremendous blessing that came from that desperate time: something that came to be called, “early morning fishing.”
Although the crying baby took so much attention, his sister, only 19-months his senior, was not exactly changing her own diapers either. I can remember her recognizing the opportunity for mischief when I was nursing the baby. She would wait until I was occupied with him, and then run get the wipes and pull them out one-by-one, putting them on her head, or wiping my mirrors, or something just out of reach, but not dangerous enough for me to stop what I was doing. Just more mess. The days would go by, and I would feel as though my punch-in clock had actually reversed. There was more on my “to do” list and nothing crossed off. All I did was clean up messes that weren’t even there when the day had begun. No progress. Had I even seen “the boys” that day?
For the 5 years before boy #3 arrived, we had referred to our first two children as “the boys” and then we had the baby girl. “You bring ‘the boys’ and I will bring the baby,” was how we spoke. Now that there was another boy, it seemed odd if not impossible to break our habit, so we continued referring to the older ones as “the boys” and the next two as “the little ones,” which were the exact terms my had parents used for my brothers and me, coincidentally.
I was convinced that in and among the crying baby and needy toddler, “the boys” were being neglected. In two years, their world had been turned upside down with lack of Mommy time, not to mention that we were building a new home simultaneously.
My solution: Take them “early morning fishing.”
I am sure that to many, this seems like a perfect job for Dad, but my husband prefers sleeping at sunrise (since he reads late into the night), and is not much for fishing any time of day, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to educate the boys, and spend quality time away from crying babies.
Since we could not trust getting a cell phone signal, I would take one walkie talkie and leave the other one with Chris, next to the bed, so he could get in touch with me when the cryer awoke. The boys and I would head to the lake in the backyard, using a Polaris Ranger to navigate the hill. My goal was to get there, get the canoe out of the barn, trolling motor attached and be afloat before the sky was lit. This gave us about one hour, +/-. Even during the school year, we could be out on the lake and back by 7:45am, ready to attack the day. The boys had to be able to tie their own line and take a fish off the hook in order to participate in the privilege of early morning fishing. It was never hard to wake them when fish were waiting.
What memories we have! From my walking on water when I realized there was a snake in the boat with us, to feeding the nest of spiders to the fish, to singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as the sun crested the trees, to the treble-hook in my cheek from my son’s casting error, to the 39inch pike, the big ones that got away, and the kids that didn’t; God blessed us with some wonderful mornings.
When in Florida on vacation last week, I was thrilled to accept my now 14-yr-old’s invitation to go early morning fishing. “Thank you for teaching us to tie lines and take fish off when we were little,” my 11-yr-old told me. “It’s so easy now.” The one who was the “crying baby” is 6, and the tears are forgotten, as he too has earned his spot in the boat. (Of course, we needed the bigger boat.)
I took photos last week and paused to take in the moment. That tall, handsome, drawn-out body of my teenager’s silhouette in the gorgeous dawning light made my heart flash-back to the little boy who started the tradition, with the big orange life jacket hindering his every move.
As the song says, “Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years.” I guess I can really thank God for my crying baby, because in my desperation, it led to a blessing of memories and traditions that outlasted the tears.
Thanks be to Him,