It was 1972. I was 8 years old with two red braids hanging down to my waist on either side of my sunburned face. I was on a deep sea fishing trip with my father – my dream come true.
“Let her do this by herself.” My father’s jagged voiced struck the captain as he rushed toward me throwing his cigar stub in the ocean.
My fishing pole strained in a tight arch with an angry 50-pound king salmon flying up and fleeing at the other end. My father pinned me to the railing of the chartered boat and yelled at me to reel it in hard and fast. My ponytails kept getting caught in the line yanking out my hair as I worked with all my might reeling him in; then letting him take it back out and then reeling him back again.
After a grueling twenty minutes, the fish was up thrashing near the boat. The captain was ready with his large net – his one job was to get the fish in the boat. He leaned over, swooped hard and then the world went silent. He had knocked the fish off the hook and it disappeared into the depths of the black Pacific Ocean.
My devastation was a silent one. There was nothing to say.
I’ve re-lived those moments over and over in my mind through the years. My fish story. The one that got away. The painful lingering feeling evolved into one of pride because my father wanted me to do it by myself.
He trusted me.
The power of feeling trusted as a child sticks. I have heard my father’s words at so many critical junctures in my life. “You can do this by yourself, Laura.”
I don’t know if I am giving my children the same moments in time that my father gave me. Parenting is hard. I get scared when I want them to succeed so I jump in – just before they fail. But the truth is simple: I want them to take charge of their lives and I trust them with important decisions, jobs and problems.
So today I remember my fish story. And today I remember to push back those ambitious captains (including myself) who rush in to save my boys from hard experiences. I will let them do the very hard things that come their way. I will say, “You’ve got this. I trust you.”
And if the fish gets away, we’ll all be okay.