by Doug Gilmer
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Funny thing about having kids, eventually they grow up.
Normally as parents we go through stages where when our kids our young and reaching milestones such as, learning to walk, starting school, losing teeth, or FINALLY become potty trained, we say they are growing up too fast. As they get older, say the teenage years, we can’t wait for them to finish growing up and get out on their own. Our kids too can’t wait to leave the nest but at the same time are quite content living off of mom and dad.
If you have school aged kids and spend time hunting and fishing with them, or hope to one day, this is for you. If you are like me, an empty nester, you will probably empathize.
This year I’ve found myself with no more kids. I have two great kids, and one just so-so kid (I’m kidding, all three are great!). All are now grown or in college. While this is a significant milestone, each having survived high school and college (thus far) without going to jail, joining a cult, or getting facial tattoos, they are still gone.
One lives close with his beautiful wife and has a very successful career underway. My youngest is in college and as she is an athlete I get to see her on TV regularly doing her thing. My middle child is also in college, the furthest away. While he loves his time there its particularly difficult for me as he, out of the three, is the one who spent the most time with me in the woods and on the water. My other two were busy with sports growing up and it served them well. I supported them fully but it limited the amount of time they could spend hunting and fishing. My middle son, however, while also having tremendous athletic ability, never liked playing team sports as football and basketball season interfered with deer season, baseball season with turkey season, and summer leagues with fishing season. While all the coaches wanted him on their teams, he had his own priorities.
When he left for college two years ago, I found myself, for the first time in many years, not having anyone to hunt and fish with. His last season at home before college was one of, if not our best season ever, filled not only with punched tags but lifetimes of memories and stories.
Suddenly, all I had left were memories. I struggled that first fall he was gone to find the motivation to go hunting. I couldn’t wait for him to come home for Thanksgiving and again at Christmas so we could spend time in the woods. This year it was worse. While I hunted by myself, I passed up shooting several deer because I had no one to share the memory with. When he came home again for Thanksgiving and Christmas break my motivation went up. When he left, it went down again.
A New Season Of Life
While I still enjoy spending time in the woods and on the water my perspective has changed. I realize my kids are growing into adults and I am growing older. While I still enjoy life, I’ve come to recognize my best years are likely behind me. While I still have a bucket list of adventures to complete I have to become more focused on creating the adventures and memories with my kids, memories to outlast me. I spend more time thinking about things we can do in the time we have together then actually doing them myself. I have found myself in a new season of life.
Cherish the time you have with your kids and family. Make it a New Year’s resolution. Get them outside, start making memories and instill in them an interest in the outdoors. Next year, your kids won’t remember what was on TV Saturday morning. They will remember a trip with dad or mom to the woods or the lake. Being outside is the most high definition and interactive experience anyone can participate in. These memories are not soon forgotten.
I also completely understand if your kids don’t show an interest in the outdoor pursuits you enjoy. You can’t force it on them without negative implications down the road. Open the door, extend the invitation to tag along. Let them decide and make it fun. If not, share time with them in those things they enjoy.
Kids are smart. They will recognize you might rather be in the woods or on the water that day, but you have chosen them over self.
One day, your kids will be grown, out of the house, in college, the military, or building a life and family of their own. You too will find yourself lacking the familiar and comforting feeling of having them along for your own adventures. Don’t look back with regret for not spending more time together. Cherish the memories and when you find yourself missing having them along, remember the good times and commit to building new memories to outlast your lifetime.
About Doug Gilmer:
Doug Gilmer is a law enforcement and military veteran with over 25 years of experience and assignments operating throughout the United States and around the world in a variety of investigative, protective, tactical and direct action roles. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fly-fishing, hunting with a handgun, backcountry adventures, and volunteering with various outdoor themed wounded warrior events. He has been a frequent contributor to outdoor media for for several years with numerous articles and photos published in a number of media channels. He is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association as well as a former board member and executive officer.