The Little Lebowski
Took the youngest boy bowling yesterday ... something we've done a bunch before, with usually a good time had by all.
In previous times, he would use the bumpers, allowing him to make awesome bank shots with little to no chance of gutter balls, thereby giving him a slightly inflated sense of confidence in his bowling skillz.
However, on this day, now that he's all 10, he decided to raise the bar. No bumpers.
Perhaps it was the extended and slightly exhausting holiday weekend that contributed to the impending meltdown, as more of more of his shots ended up in the gutter. I tried to be encouraging. I wanted him to have fun. Mostly I wanted to have fun, as I could have been just as happy at home doing laundry.
Nothing I could say seemed to help... in fact, this only served to piss him off more.
By the third game (yeah, I know... why? Well, we were waiting for a ride home..) I was inspired to take a different approach. As he had been to a couple qi-gong/tai chi classes with me, I thought pulling out some of that wisdom might help, if he would listen. I suggested that he try rooting himself first; that he take a breath, relax, and then really focus on where he wanted his ball to go.
Surprising to both of us, he stepped up and rolled a perfect strike.
Flukey? Maybe. Who knows if what I said made a difference, particularly when he had trouble doing it again.
But, I thought to myself, maybe there's some Larger Life Lessons to be gleaned here ... some tangential 'qi-gong-of-bowling' metaphor I can concoct in true Gina fashion.
Profound or not, you be the judge. (Besides, I had to turn some of his pervasive bad mood to good use before I started flinging bowling balls, too...)
Here's what I came up with:
1) Choosing to step up to a challenge usually means choosing to feel temporarily incompetent. Probably why we often avoid that. Patience with oneself is paramount as we navigate the new rules, and let go of the usual ways of doing things that no longer work. It sucks. But there's often great reward in sticking it out. Or at least facing it with grace and humor.
2) Being frustrated and angry prevents us from seeing how we can do better, or being open to possibilities for tweaking, or taking counsel from a compassionate and objective observer. See point #1. Plus it causes one to fling a heavy bowling ball in a manner that some moms would consider dangerous.
3) Knowing exactly where you want your ball to go increases your chances of getting it there. Seems obvious, but taking a moment each time you step up to focus on where to direct your energy makes a difference. It's wise not to assume that just because it's the same ball, the same pins, and the same damn shot down a straight alley, logically, the ball should always go the same way. Meet each opportunity anew and with fresh eyes and intentions. ALWAYS account for human error.
4) Awareness of the backswing is crucial. It's the foundation for the previous step, though we often forget. No matter how accurate the shot looks when the ball leaves your hand, if your backswing is not in alignment, it screws everything up down the road. (This may have been the biggest ah-ha for me. And not in regards to bowling. I already knew that.)
This was the most enraging part for my son, who couldn't see that when he would pull his arm back it always went out to the right, veering his ball to the left. He would insist that he WAS NOT DOING THAT! when I tried to helpfully point it out. And then continue to do that.
'Keep doing what you're doing, and you'll keep getting what you're getting' came to mind, but to my credit, I did not speak this out loud.
5) Don't compare yourself to others with more experience. For a variety of reasons, not least of which was that it left me with a few awkward unanswered high-fives when I made a good shot. Instead, I would turn around to find the glare of Mr Yuk face.
6) Some things we have no control over. Enthusiastic players in the next alley, bad music over the PA, gravity, pizza-greasy bowling balls.
Okay, that reminds me. If you're that concerned about your game, don't eat pizza while bowling. It really doesn't give you an advantage. And tie your shoes, please.
7) Some things we do have control over. Know what they are and maximize their benefits. A really cool swirly-purple ball may look awesome, but if it weighs 30 pounds, or your thumb keeps getting stuck in it, it's really not gonna matter. (Okay, so that piece of advice was more for me.) The right ball, the right shoes (velcro vs. ties), more napkin usage between bites of pizza, our bodily position, our attitude. These things we can choose.
So, there you have it. Aside from the usual, 'it's not whether you win or lose' schtick, because admittedly, it is gratifying to do well, especially when you've overcome a real challenge, it's important to have fun with it, too.
Wait, what's that? How's my game? Um, well, suffice it to say that with bumpers, the kid usually kicks my ass.
We shall speak no more of this.