Set a goal to get you both outside
Catch a fish a month, I said.
It’ll be fun, I said.
And it’ll give us a reason to go fishing. Not that we needed a reason to go fishing, but sometimes when the wind is blowing 30 mph and it’s 20 below zero, you need some motivation to go outside.
I had written a story once about a guy who had caught a fish every month for more than 20 years. It seemed like an attainable enough challenge.
Catching something each month started off easy. We made it a priority between work, hunting seasons and family.
But almost a year later, in the early stages of a fragile pregnancy when I was forbidden to do anything that increased my heart rate, we almost missed a month.
It was Dec. 31, 2015.
Wyoming has plenty of open water in the winter, but it can be anywhere from 50 to 100 miles away depending on where you are. We found a fishable patch on the Wind River where a warm spring bubbled to the surface keeping water temperatures hovering just above freezing. I held onto Josh with one hand and slapped the water for two hours with the other. I swore as bits of ice bounced off our waders. I questioned the stupid goal that I’d set. I told him it was fine, we just wouldn’t catch it that month. The streak would be over for me.
But then a little brown trout bit, and I was back in the game.
Never again would we let it get that late, I said.
Never say never, he said.
If I thought it was tricky to catch a trout on doctor’s restrictions just shy of bed rest, I clearly wasn’t anticipating winter fishing with a newborn.
We made it through the month she spent attached to tubes in the hospital as a tiny preemie too fragile to leave an incubator. We even made it through those first months home from the hospital when we were overprotective and sleep deprived.
Then we almost missed another December, when we stood once again in the Wind River, that time with our little one sleeping in a chest pack under a down coat while snow gently fell around us.
What I realized that month, and the 12 months that have followed when we wrapped her in down (or slathered her in sunscreen) and carried her into the elements, is that even silly goals that sometimes seemed nearly impossible without kids are still plenty doable with them.
Sure, they require a bit more planning and intention, but as unimportant as catching a fish a month might seem, it may actually be more important now.
It’s a constant. A reason to stand in peaceful currents or lakeshores and talk to her about fish and rocks and birds. It’s another way to introduce her to pine cones, squirrels and wild turkeys. It enables picnics in the sage brush.
Your goal doesn’t have to be a fish a month. It doesn’t need to involve fishing. But when life is crazy and you can’t imagine anything other than work, meals, diapers and sleep, having a goal forces you – and your little one – back into the outdoors and back into who you are.