The Oregon Sea Grant published a booklet a few years back entitled Adapting to Change—Fishing families, Businesses, Communities, and Regions. One of the topics covered in the booklet is Connecting with Fathers at Sea.
The article (“Fathers and Children through the Ages”) includes pointers on how to help your children stay connected to their commercial fishing fathers whether those children are infants, toddlers, preschool, in middle childhood or teenagers.
The first paragraph reads (in part) “Commercial fishing can require long absences from home…and is inherently dangerous…Fishing families often contend with Father’s frequent absences and reappearances…”
The article offers tips on how to help your children cope with the stress of having a father that comes and goes, comes and goes. Ideas for infants and toddlers (of which I have both) include having large pictures of dad’s face nearby, maybe even a wedding photo so the child can see mom and dad together. Dad’s voice could be recorded for the child to listen to in his absence, or a video could be taken and showed to the toddler, perhaps even a video of Dad on his boat.
Here in our home, we have used most of these ideas. I have a big picture of George, Eva, Vincent and me as my computer screensaver, and Eva knows how to crawl into my office chair, click the mouse and see her daddy.”Dada!” she exclaims each time his big, smiley face magically appears. I also have a picture of our boat displayed at her eye level, and I save all of George’s messages on our old-fashioned answering machine so that Eva can go over, push “play,” and hear his voice again and again.
It does break my heart, though, when Eva wakes up in the morning and looks immediately for her daddy inside the house. It brought a tear to my eye the other night when, as we read a book, Eva became especially excited over a picture of a little girl named Grace receiving a big hug from her father.
When Eva looks at me and asks “Dada?” my response is always the same.
“Daddy’s working,” I say first, and then pause.
“He’s fishing!” I say at last, like it is the most exciting and wondrous thing in the world.