Boys and Dads

by | Nov 15, 2017 | 12 comments

I opened my eyes to full daylight. And the first sound I heard was rain in the gutter behind the bedroom window. I’ve learned to gauge the amount of rainfall by the dripping sounds of water inside an aluminum tube. Without pulling the window blind, I understood that the storm was steady. Somehow, I also knew it would continue all day.

Down the hall and on my way to the coffee pot, my nine year old son caught up to me, and with his characteristic excitement for everything in life, he asked, “Dad, can we fish today?”

I have a self-imposed rule for parenting. There are three things I always say yes to: baseball, music and fishing. When either of my boys wants to throw a ball, strum a guitar or sling a fly rod, I do everything I can to make that happen.

“You okay with the rain?” I asked Joey.

“Sure,” he replied, wide eyed and hopeful.

“Alright then, gear up.” I told him. And I poured the steaming coffee into a travel mug.

We haven’t fished much this year, and honestly, I’ve worried that we were away from it for too long. Let me explain something . . .

Our family went all-in with baseball this year. After Joey was selected for a majors team, we played ball from February to October. And I say “we” because I helped coach every team, going from the regular season to summer All-Star season, into Fall Ball. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Our local Little League organization is exactly the kind of thing a parent wants their kids involved in. I played baseball as a kid, but it was nothing like this.

Joey has learned to really drive a baseball, and he’s fought through the fear of fielding a leather covered rock — he’s become a better athlete, more aware and in control of his own body. But more than all that, Joey’s become part of a community, and these are exactly the kind of people that I want my son around. So we kept playing ball this year, because it’s all Joey wanted to do.

Fall Ball

As a father, I worry when I’m not as close to my sons as I want to be, and I despise any rift between us. But I also have high expectations for their behavior. It’s how I was raised: here are the rules, follow the rules, here are the consequences for not following those rules. And Joey, for all his big-hearted happiness, breaks a lot of rules. Spending all these months together on a baseball team helped. Joey learned a different kind of self-control, and I’ve come to better understand my nine-year-old son. It helped me to see him in the dugout with his peers, to watch and understand who these little people really are.

Photo by Joey Swentosky

So we fished in the rain. And this time, as I knelt in the water behind my son, when I reached to the rod to help him learn the cast, he had no objections. I placed my hand on his own to teach him to feel the rod flex and then stop hard on the forward cast, and he trusted me more than he ever has. I thought of all the times I watched Joey’s coaches patiently teach him how to stand in the batter’s box, how to swing the barrel of the bat to the center of the baseball, or how to follow through on his delivery of a fastball from the pitcher’s mound. And I thought about one extra-long infield session that went until dusk, when after all the other kids left, Joey thanked me for working with him, for teaching him.

It rained while we fished, and since Joey has outgrown his own raincoat, he wore mine. That reminded me of wearing my own father’s clothes, how I took some pride in that when I was Joey’s age, and how walking side by side with my Dad, on any path, still feels safe.

It’s a whole new world out there.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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12 Comments

  1. Of all the posts you’ve written this one strikes a chord, and the pictures are wonderful. Nicely done.

    Reply
  2. I just had a 20 year flashback… Fishing, baseball, rules, life lessons,and a nine year old son.
    Fast forward to present and an invitation from him to spend a few days at Steelhead Camp next week.
    They remember Dom, and it’s worth it.
    Enjoy the ride.

    Reply
  3. I ENJOY ALL YOUR FISHING COLUMNS AND HAVE LEARNED A LOT FROM THEM. BUT THIS COLUMN WAS ESPECIALLY TOUCHING AND TENDER. YOU ARE A GREAT FISHING WRITER BUT AN EVEN BETTER FATHER.

    Reply
  4. As others have said above, this post really hit me. I am almost 62 now and my elderly Dad is struggling now, but I remember vividly the times spent with him playing ball, him throwing me BP, taking Mom and us boys fishing. Back in those days a mess of crappies for a fish fry was the mission, and Mom sure knew how to fry them up, breaded in corn meal. To this day he is the best man I’ve ever known, he always made the time to spend time with my brothers and my Mom. I am sure your son will think back on you the same way some day.

    Best Regards, Sam

    Reply
  5. Great post. Your son will really appreciate these times when he’s older.

    Reply
    • Never forget, kids spell love: T I M E

      Reply
  6. Great blog! I never say “no” to fishing. And baseball is great for building character in boys: they have to learn how to win and lose, be part of a team, and also face adversity alone when they are up to bat all by themselves facing 9 opposing players. Such a unique sport when compared to basketball, football and soccer.

    Reply
  7. Domenick, my son is a college senior preparing for his final season of baseball. The journey from tee ball through college ball made me a better parent as much as it made him a better player. Should Joey’s passion for baseball continue, taking a 12U team to the Field of Dreams tournament in Cooperstown is a bucket list event. Through baseball, golf & fishing together we have many memories to look back on. Those unsolicited thank you’s and hugs reinforce all that is good. Your writing so wonderfully captures emotion, sound & images. Thank you, I look forward to each post.

    Reply
  8. This article reminds me so much of my relationship with my son and daughter. Both of them playing school sports. Fast pitch softball and track respectively.
    Those tireless hours of helping them hone their skills to be the best they can be. I too helped them with their fishing skills, and they’ve since let me standing in the creek by out fishing me everyone we go out.
    Their favorite saying is “any help you need dad just ask.” Haha, and I do!!
    Always treasure the time you have with your kids, before you know it they’re helping their kids!
    Dominic, I have to tell you my email address was made up by my kids. Before they started fishing with me when I leave they would yell “tight lines bud!” What a great email to use!!!

    Reply
  9. Enjoy every second ..you’ll never get a chance to share these moments .. a moment in time
    To all .. Dom just took my 42 year old son and I on a great fish trip last week PS My son outfished me as usual !!!

    Reply
  10. Don,

    Great article.

    Reminds me of my childhood. For a couple of years my father worked 10 hour days, 6 days a week. He always saved Sunday’s for my brother and I no matter how tired he was. Whether it was piling duck decoys in the truck, or tying on a different jig, he always made time. I’m trying to make sure my kids get the same so they can look back and have memories like I do.

    Reply

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