I remember with absolute clarity the moment we found out we were expecting each of our children! I also remember, with absolute clarity the fear washing over me that I had no idea what was going to happen next, and truthfully, I still don’t. The adventure, and opportunity being dad has afforded me, I wouldn’t trade for anything!
This past fall I was sitting in my stand, the morning was quiet, the action was slow, with exception of 2 squirrels chasing each other to the east, then back to the west, then back to east, aaaand back to the west, I think you get the picture. I reached for my phone to check the time and there, staring back at me were the smiling faces of our daughter and 2 sons! Then my mind started to wander, as it often does, just ask my wife, following along with the randomness of my mind is what I imagine driving from Rhode Island to Oregon with a map of Germany would be like! I digress. My mind wanders and begins highlighting the similarities between hunting and parenthood. In both instances I’ve learned there’s no “one perfect way” At best, we’re all winging it and hoping for the best! Sounds terrible, I know, but stick with me on this one!
You’re gonna spend a lot of time in the dark!
Hunting: I mean literally it will be dark, whether it’s the wee morning hours, or calling it a day in the early moments of twilight, you are going to become familiar with darkness.
Parenting: We’ve all heard “there’s no book on how to raise kids!” Now, I know why. The print would be so small, and the book would be so thick, you wouldn’t read it. So get comfortable with the unknown, and living in left field! You’re going to feel lost, and you’re not going to have all the right answers!
It’s hard not to be slightly obsessed with gear!!
Hunting: there will ALWAYS be a new gun, or bow! There will always be better calls, new scents, improved blinds, more realistic camo patterns and decoys so real you’ll do a double take when you open your eyes if you happen to doze off. (Side note: This has happened to me while turkey hunting)! You name it there will be a better one next season! Sometimes these improvements, and the gear make life easier, sometimes it just makes us feel better! Trust me, I’m guilty too!!
Parenting: Good lord!! Baby books, Baby proofing, car seats expire?!? developmental toys, and diaper wipe warmers...I’m serious, that’s a thing. Much like your outdoor gear, some baby gear serves a valid purpose, and genuinely makes the art of keeping a tiny human alive, a little easier! However, just like the gear does not make the hunter, nor does it make one parent better than another. The more time we spend observing the woods, the wiser we become, and all our children really want is that, your time! Forget about spending time worrying about your gear, and spend more time just being in the moment!
Baby gear side note: You want a good laugh...look up baby neck floats. It’s an inner tube the goes around your child’s neck, keeping their head above water, like a chubby, toothless water lily.
I’m pretty sure we’re speaking the same language, why, aren’t, you, listening!!!
Hunting: admittedly I’m enthralled with the art of calling! To bear witness to a hunter that convinces ducks to come back after shooting at them, or convince turkeys to come running in completely convinced of what they’ve heard! The list goes on! Then there are those times that no matter how good we sound (or think we do) the critters just act like you’re not even there! How about when a deer, duck, or turkey makes a sound you’ve never heard them make, and you’re completely thrown off! Talking to wildlife is an exercise in observation and patience, and the best way to improve your efficiency is through listening to them in their natural environment and watching their reactions!
Parenting: No matter what language is spoken in the home, all parents can relate. Repeating yourself, repeating yourself louder, calling your child’s (children’s name) repeatedly in an attempt to gather their attention only to be met with “huh, I didn’t hear you...” ....you’re ten feet away. Communicating with kids is an exercise in patience and adaptation! The tone of conversations and the content varies based on age, and the child! The ways we explain things to our eldest is slightly different from our youngest, and again our middle child! Not because they don’t understand, but because they each learn and retain differently, surprise, they’re humans, and we’re not all the same!! Just like in the woods, I’ve learned to let the situation and the individual dictate the delivery and the tone of the conversation! So, relax, whether it’s children or wild game you’ll figure it out!!
Don’t shoot the squirrel, it’s only being a squirrel.
Hunting: You know what I’m talking about. You’re sitting in your stand or blind, and for the 5th time today you thought you heard a deer only to lock eyes with a bushy tailed nut monger! Then, there’s the squirrel who spots you, and starts alarming the rest of the woods to your presence! Don’t let temptation get the best of you...finger off the trigger, it’s just a squirrel being a squirrel, it’ll move on.
Parenting: Whether it’s a crying infant, or a chatty pre-schooler fumbling their way through the uuummm most uuuhh exciiittiinngg stooorrrry they’ve ever, um told, and they, but they, um seem to, uh be building your an-an-anticipation, only to realize that, um, we’re arriving at the same plot ending as the first 4 times they told you! Deep breath! A baby can’t talk, the only way they know how to communicate is smile = happy, crying = fix it. Toddlers and pre-schoolers are running commentary! No matter how many times you’ve heard the story, it’s just kids being kids! We will miss it one day. So again....don’t shoot the squirrel.
The little moments, are the biggest rewards!
Hunting: of course as hunters we all want to fill our tag, and have that moment of our hard work and preparation fulfilled. How about those cold mornings watching the rise through the trees, the distant gobbles and yelps of roosted turkeys waking up. The cracking antlers, of two bucks deciding who’s the boss. A honking flock geese heading to their feeding grounds. The screech of a red tailed hawk gliding over a clover field. The hoot of an owl as evening begins to cloak the woods. If moments like these, that you can only experience being a quiet observer in the elements don’t put a smile on your face, my friend, check your pulse.
Parenting: We all have long days, where we couldn’t possibly handle one more thing!! On those days, being met with those huge smiles, wide open arms followed by “HI DADDY!!” turns it all around! Then, the quiet moments, when they’re tired, (and not willing to admit it), they crawl into your lap and within minutes are passed out, looking so peaceful and sweet! If that doesn’t make you warm and fuzzy...I bet you don’t like puppies either!
Sleep, HA! Caffeine is the nectar of the gods!
Hunting: The season opens, we’re all wide awake well before our alarms sound because we’ve been waiting SO LONG, and it’s here!!! Enter mid season and the “I can sleep, 10 more minutes...” and if you’re anything like me, by the time you get to where your hunting your thermos is already empty, and you keep shaking the mug hoping to harness the power of wishful thinking and draw an extra few ounces of energy from thin air. However we wouldn’t trade those early mornings, and long late season days for anything!
Parenting: Ever watch Looney Tunes...? Watching Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner, the Road Runner never runs out of steam, and poor Mr. Coyote always seems to be 2 steps behind, it’s exactly like that. I believe one 3 year old posses enough energy to power 10 homes, and a town fair. If you’re not caffeinated, you will find yourself playing hide and seek, just to sneak a nap behind the couch! But knowing these moments are fleeting and will pass us by in a blink, I’ll take tired, any day!!
Most importantly, don’t take yourself to seriously. I don’t need to break this down, but I will leave you with this...parenting, and I’ve even found in hunting, more often than not you’re going to get the test before you get the lesson. Trust your instincts, make the best decision you can with information you have, and know that tomorrow is new a day!!