Chad’s Blog: Daddy, why?

Blog_Slowdown1A few days ago I took my son, Chase, fishing on the St. Johns River. Just the two of us.

Being a family of six, itʼs rare that we get to spend a few hours alone as father and first born son. I certainly look forward to times like these with all of my kids and I know they do too.

We were having trouble finding bait that morning and after about the third stop and the millionth time Iʼd thrown that cast net, I grew impatient to say the least. I fired up the motor, told my lil’ fishin’ buddy to hold on and I gunned the boat to the last spot we might be able to find bait at.

It was still early; not quite daylight yet, and the fog was heavy, rising off the water. I came screaming around a corner, trying desperately to somehow see through the fog for signs of bait breaking the surface…when I noticed another boat, a fellow angler, anchored next to the weed line just ahead on my port side.

Even though I was in such a hurry, worried about our day of fishing, I instinctively eased up on the throttle and slowed my boat down to a slow idle, just as my dad taught me when I was about Chaseʼs age. As we cruised past them, Chase and I tossed out the good ol’ “river wave” to them and they were more than happy to oblige us.

Before I got the boat back up on a plane again, Chase looks up from his granola bar and asked, “Daddy, why?” Then went back to his third snack before 7 a.m.

Iʼve become wary of these “Daddy, why?” questions recently. It seems the older my kids get, the more difficult these questions get.

“Why, what buddy?” I asked.

My son, obviously sensing my own urgency to somehow make this the the best and most efficient fishing trip ever, says to me, “why do we always have to slow down for people!?”

I smiled at my son, both on my face and in my heart, while I eased the throttle on my brain and slowed it down. “Well buddy, itʼs the same reason why we hold the door open for people. Itʼs why we say, ʻmaʼam and sir. If you and I were fishing where those guys were and it was nice and quiet, we wouldnʼt want someone in their boat to go racing by us while weʼre trying to catch fish, would we?” I explained.

“No sir,” he said as he opened his fourth granola bar.

We idled all the way to my next bait spot talking about being courteous to others and what that means; a conversation that couldnʼt have taken place with the throttle wide open and my mind wildly preoccupied. By the time we got there, it didnʼt matter if we caught bait or not. We used artificial lures for a few hours and never caught anything, which was all right by the both of us.

I can remember being my sonʼs age…going fishing with my dad, being so anxious to catch a world record fish, and asking him the same question, “Daddy, why?”…and him giving me the same explanation.

Research has shown that in the last 30 years, empathy for others among the younger generations has plummeted at an alarming rate. Just Google the words “younger generation” and youʼll see countless articles from Scientific American and Psychology.

Today they say young Americans are more narcissistic and self absorbed than any other since modern psychology.

Sure, you can blame the mass media, iPods, video games, etc. As a modern day father, I admit that these constants in my childrenʼs lives are increasingly difficult to combat. However, I strongly believe that experiences like Chase and I had that day on the river where we “slowed down” and were deliberately courteous to a stranger…made more of an impact on both of us.