No Longer in Charge

Finding time to spend with your kids after they go off to college

By Rob Breeding

There was a time when I was in command. If I wanted the twins to join me on a float, I just loaded up the kids and the boat and off we went. Divorce made things only a little more complicated in that I had to wait until it was my weekend, but basically it remained my call.

Kids grow up into young adults of course, and as time went by, the logistics of a family float trip grew more complicated. We still found time, just not as often.

Now that the twins have reached college age the opportunities for a float with one or both have become pretty rare. Heck, these days I feel fortunate if we’re just in the same time zone.

Raise your kids to be independent and I suppose that’s what you should expect. Still, it’s a little jarring when you realize what was once routine has become an event you’ll have to plan for, sometimes a year or more in advance.

Such is the case for a float down the Middle Fork. I was able to arrange it the other day, but with only one twin on board. The other was off at her summer job, trying to save money for college. I’ve watched this dynamic before with friends whose children are older than mine. The kids grow up, move away, and then they become a sort of part-time presence in the life of their parents, at least in a physical sense. I know that’s what happened when I moved away from California. I see my mom only a few times a year now.

In the last 12 months I haven’t seen much of the kiddo I shared the river with. She spent the year abroad, and will spend the next in at a college in the Eastern Time Zone. We brought along the fishing gear but needn’t have bothered. The river was just an excuse for a long talk as we caught up on the year’s worth of life that we missed while she lived on another continent.

Our discussion went uninterrupted from Moccasin Creek down to West Glacier, mostly. There was the point when my English setter, Doll, decided she’d had enough of this floating business and inexplicably jumped out of the boat. It was in that long deep run where Lincoln Creek joins the river, so she was in well over her head. That’s a problem for setters in that they don’t have much body fat so most of their four-legged propulsion is directed at keeping their muzzle above water.

By the panicked look on her face I don’t think the dog had the slightest clue what she was getting into.

Fortunately, I was able to spin the boat around so my daughter could get ahold of the dog until I could row us to shore. Doll promptly ran off into the bushes, so maybe her bold action was brought on by the urgent call of nature. I probably need to stop a little more often when we’ve got the pooch on board. I think I need to get her one of those doggie life vests as well.

There was also that point as we neared West Glacier where we floated back into the range of technology. Just below Repeater Rapid both our phones started alerting us to the world we’d abandoned a few hours before. There were a couple crises back home that I suddenly and quite reluctantly had to deal with.

The fly rods remained stowed the entire float in some nifty holders I’d crafted from 10-foot electric conduit. That seemed just fine. We made it down to West Glacier as the light was fading on the day, all in one piece, including a wet but happy dog.

I’m not sure when we’ll make it back, but I’m making plans. Summer 2018 can’t be too far off.

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