Aug 31

Parenting: Whose perspective is it anyway?

Griffin and I went camping last weekend.

That’s right, just us boys!

Emma was off at a yoga retreat getting centred and pampered and stretched while we got dirty and wet and smelly and cold.

Yup, camping is a treat.

But really, it is a treat, a fantastic one that had Griffin and I in stiches half the time and growling the other half.

One of the most important reasons we went camping was so that Griffin could do some fishing. I have no idea where he gets the idea that fishing is fun from, but he has it. And he has it bad.

Not so long ago I wrote a post about getting new fishing rods and captured a video of Griffin practising his casting. He is so amazingly excited by fishing I sometimes wonder if he is not my brother’s son. That gene missed me completely!

But he is my son so we gotta do it.

We went to Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor for our little excursion and got there late Saturday afternoon. Built the tent with huge amounts of “help” from Griff, assembled the small kettle braai and got cooking.

This was where my refresher in perspective began…

When I poured the charcoal into the kettle braai and got the firelighters out, Griffin LEAPT at the opportunity to help Dad build and make a fire. Every kid right?
As we were away and camping and had no time constraints I thought what the hell, let me get out of his way and help him learn how this stuff works. So I let him light the fire lighters and pile the briquettes on top of the flaming cubes of paraffin.

All good?

Well not really.

I wanted him to succeed. I wanted him to get the fire going. I wanted him to STOP MOVING THE BLOODY CHARCOAL!


In giving him the freedom to help, I had effectively given him the role of being ACTIVE in the management of the fire. His idea of being active meant prodding and poking and moving the briquettes around where all I wanted him to do was pile them up onto the flames and then sit back and watch. I really should have thought it through a little better. After much stop and start and using almost half of the firelighters we brought with, we eventually got the fire going and were able to begin cooking.

Here beginnith lesson number two…

“Can I cook the food please dad?”

Four “minute steaks” on a braai that had taken well over an hour to get to a point where we could cook? Why not, we’re having fun aren’t we?

So I hand him the tongs and he dutifully rips into the steak wrappers and starts putting the meat onto the fire. I had to help him with this as the thin little steaks were falling through the grill into the coals.

Once they were on I thought “Right, soon we will be eating and all will be well”

I forgot that Griffin was cooking.

As soon as the meat was laid out, he started turning them all over, then again, then again then again.

Braaing to a six year old is not as much about letting the food cook as it is about looking like you are doing something. Looking like you are doing something involves movement and activity, not patience and watching.

So we turned and turned the meat until it was dry warm cardboard.

Slapped it between two slices of bread with a healthy dollop of tomato sauce and Griff was amazed at how good his cooking is! I, on the other hand, needed a more than healthy dollop of HP sauce and some Tabasco to mask the flavour of overexposed cardboard.

Another sigh.

The next day we took the girls (Daphne and Velma, our Chug Russels) down to the lake shore and started the inevitable “fishing” experience.

And thus beginnith lesson number three…

A six year old has the attention span of a gnat.

Asking him to sit down and wait patiently at the waters edge while I set up hooks and bait and assemble his rod and reel etc, was just never going to have great results. He was throwing stones into the water, banging small rocks onto bigger ones buried in the shore, running around with the dogs screaming and shouting and playing. NONE of that would ordinarily get me irritated, but in this instance it did. I am dutifully dipping my fingers into red dye to fish out the red corn bait for him to use to CATCH A FISH. I wanted to TEACH him, to SHOW him how to go about it. I tried to make him understand that if he scared the fish away the was no chance he would actually catch one.

Anyways, I got him all set up and he cast off into the lake.

Scant moments later he wanted to reel in to see if a fish had eaten his bait.

Now I knew nothing had come even close, and I knew that if he kept on bringing the hook out of the water and recasting, he was not going to be successful. So I took it on myself to explain to him that he must just leave it and watch the float. Watch for activity. Be patient.

That didn’t really pan out and he kept on reeling in till his hook got stuck in the reeds and I would have to help him get it out and get him to recast.

As soon as the hook was out of the water he would walk to cast and not watch the hook.

I was watching this sharp thing swinging past the dogs, me, Griffin and panicking. TENSE TENSE TENSE.

I ended up getting cross with my son for not listening to me as I told him to keep still, be patient and stop re-casting.

That was when lesson’s one through three finally sunk in and I achieved enlightenment.

See, where I was going wrong was I thought the measure of success for an activity was completely different to him.

I was viewing all of these activities through my own perspective and not his.

Perception of success

Activity Barry Griffin
Lighting the fire A functional cooking fire Being allowed to play with the fire
Cooking the steaks Eating tasty steak Holding the tongs and prodding the meat
Fishing Catching a fish Fishing

Once this settled in my mind I realized that he had actually been extremely successful in his goal achievement for the weekend. He was living the camping dream.

It was me that was screwing it up with unreasonable requests to make real fires or actually catch a fish.

At that point I took the hook off of his line so that I could relax about him not hurting himself, the dogs or me and told him to practise his casting.

He did that for ages, forgetting after two minutes that there was no hook on the line and chattered incessantly about the size of the fish he was going to bag.


The rest of the weekend was amazing. Liam and Andrea joined us for a Sunday braai and the kids all played while we did what you do around a braai… drink and talk shit!

After they left, Griffin and I went to bed and read stories by torch light, woke up and struck camp and went home.

Realizing (while I was doing it) that he sees the world in a very different way to me helped keep me from becoming a wreck while ensuring that my son had the dream father/son camping weekend he has always wanted.

Success. For me too.