A Fish Story (from an Amazed Mom)

Two kids, an ocean, and some independence.

Miriam Bradford is one of the two runner-up winners of the Let Grow Independence Challenge Essay Contest for Parents. We asked folks to tell us how they got up the guts to give their kids some independence and what happened when they did. For her story, Miriam’s getting a $50 prize — and some plain old pride.

What Mom Doesn’t Know Won’t Hurt Her

Shortly after this picture was taken, I paddled back the half mile to our rental house at the end of the cove at the edge of Acadia National Park in Maine. That means I was leaving my son, 13, and daughter, 10, to explore the mouth of the cove and beyond.

They’re strong ocean swimmers and they had each other —  plus whistles on their life jackets, so I wasn’t worried. When my son came in without my daughter 40 minutes later to grab a fishing pole, I told him to get back out there quickly so she wasn’t alone. Two hours later they both returned with a small bait fish.

But we didn’t get the real story until much later that night.

In my absence the kids had come across a giant school of pogies. My daughter could see them better from her vantage point on the paddleboard, so my son convinced her to switch watercraft in the middle of the cove.

Then they switched back and he had her tie his kayak to her paddleboard and paddle him around to follow the school of pogies – until he decided to come in and get his fishing pole.

The surprising trick to getting siblings to cooperate.

When he got back out to her she had been following the pogies all around. Following HER was a harbor seal!

Eventually they hooked up the paddleboard and kayak again so that my son could fish off the kayak. I can honestly say that that level of collaboration would not have occurred I had been present.

I definitely would have encouraged them NOT to switch watercraft, not to leave either of them out there alone, and not to cast a fishing line so close to each other!

As it is, I now have my first parenting story that will outlive me. I can 100% imagine them at my age hanging out together and saying, “Remember that time mom abandoned us in the ocean — and a seal didn’t?”

 — Miriam Bradford, Manchester by The Sea, MA