Parenting lessons I learned from Shrimp (Article)

Valuable life lessons are available to all of us in our everyday life activities if we take a minute to notice them. I’ve written about this phenomenon before when I spoke about gleaning parenting lessons from my gardening experiences. First, I noticed that my tomato plants only produced great fruit when the roots (my metaphor for family life) were planted deep and strong. I wrote about this in a post called, “The Secrets in the Roots”: http://www.docsmo.com/thoughts-from-the-desk-of-doc-smo-the-secret-is-in-the-roots/.  Next, I noticed that my green beans in my garden had an optimal maturing time (my metaphor for time under their parents’ direct care); too little time on the vine and the beans just weren’t ready, and too much time made them tough and stringy. I discussed this in a post that  I called “Time on the Vine”: http://www.docsmo.com/from-the-desk-of-doc-smo-time-on-the-vine/.

This year’s parenting lesson came while my friend and I were out shrimping of all things. We thought we had the perfect conditions for a great day of gathering shrimp from a coastal river. Our expectations were  high for a bountiful catch. Shrimping is a unique experience for a boy raised in New Jersey, and I plan my vacation around the life cycle of these little crustaceans, knowing that there are only a few weeks of the year that shrimping in tidal rivers can be successful. The water temperature has to be warm enough, the tide needs to be low, and your nets need to be in good shape and thrown correctly, and most importantly, you need to be in the right place. Unfortunately, after hours of fruitless, strenuous net-throwing with little to show for it, we were about to give up. Our backs and shoulders were sore, and we had only caught a few small shrimp, certainly not enough for a shrimp feast. Just before we were going to quit however, my fellow shrimper John said, “I wonder if the shrimp hide in the grass where the water is warmer and they are safer from our nets?” He turned out to be right! We started throwing our nets near the marsh grass, and you would have thought we had discovered a shrimp convention. The shrimp were hiding near the grass alright, we just needed to adjust our strategy of casting to catch them.

So here is a parenting lesson we learned from those shrimp: fishing and parenting do have some commonality. Parents need to be persistent and adaptable in their parenting. Not every child is the same. Some children are very rigid and thrive on routine and structure; others need more flexibility and prefer change. Some children like choices and freedom, others not so much. Some children respond better to rewards than punishments, others test their limits by pushing until punishment ensues. Parents need to be flexible and learn which strategies are going to work best for each child. Sort of like the lesson the shrimp taught us we out on the river. What worked one day may not work in another. Persistence, adaptability, and a willingness to try new things might just have some delicious rewards for you and your children.

Please share your comments and experiences with others on my blog, www.docsmo.com.  Until next time.

Written by Paul Smolen MD

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