Slowing It Down...
Why Parenting is Sort of Like Golf
It's summer, so I've been playing a lot of golf. Not well, I should probably add, but it doesn't really matter: there's something about the game that I love unconditionally. My grandfather, dad, and brother played golf, although apparently it never occurred to them to teach a girl. But when my son was 11 years old, he asked one day if he could take golf lessons. Many of his friends played and he thought it would be fun. I thought so, too. So I bought an inexpensive set of ladies' clubs to share and signed us up for recreation department classes.
My son immediately began lofting balls in high, curving arcs; his mom launched more than a few clumps of grass and clods of dirt. But the game touched something in both of us and it became one of our favorite ways to connect. A few hours on the driving range or a round of golf turned out to be the perfect way for a single mom and her growing son to talk, laugh, and just hang out together. My son went on to play for Reno High School; they won the regional championship in his senior year. And me? Well, that's quite a story.
I dream of breaking 90 but sometimes it feels as though I'm going backwards instead of forwards. Golf, it turns out, is a hard game. Sometimes it seems that the harder you try, the harder it gets. I have been so frustrated and discouraged that more than once I've thought about giving it up--but somehow I never do. This past weekend, as I wrestled with yet another change to my swing (amid much gnashing of teeth), it occurred to me that golf is a lot like parenting. How so? Well, here are a few of my thoughts.
It helps to take lessons. Some people can learn a difficult movement like a golf swing on their own, but most find it helps to take lessons. Golf involves a whole range of skills and a whole bag of equipment; parenting, too, is easier when you have skills, and have a bag of tools. For some reason I've never understood, parents resist the idea of parenting coaching and classes even while they're signing up for golf lessons, cooking lessons, and dancing lessons. But the truth is that it's almost always easier to learn a complicated skill from a pro--and isn't your child more important than your golf game?
Tune in to your body. The pros make it look easy, but hitting a golf ball straight and far is a complicated physical motion. It's simply not possible if you're not paying attention to your body, relaxing your shoulders and hands, and pacing yourself. Parents, too, find that some of their most important information comes from their body. Your body will tell you what you're feeling; your posture and facial expression tell your child a great deal, too. Tune in to your body, relax, and take a deep breath when parenting gets challenging. Smiling helps, too.
Practice, practice, practice. Learn some skills, then practice until they become second nature. True in both parenting and golf.
Laugh at yourself. I am grateful each time I walk off the 18th green that I'm not trying to earn a living playing golf. It is, after all, a game and--this may shock you--it's supposed to be fun. Parenting, too, shouldn't be all drudgery and grim determination. Take time to laugh with your children, to play games, and to remember why you wanted to have them in the first place. It can turn a difficult experience into a marvelous one.
Last but not least, slow down. Put a golf ball in front of me and I have a tendency to flail at it as though it must be squashed within half a second. When I can simply breathe and slow down, I do much better. Your parenting will be more effective and more enjoyable, too, when you can breathe and slow the process down. Don't just react: act thoughtfully. Enjoy the moment you have: trust me, it will pass all too quickly. Take time to savor the small things: a giggle, a new word, an unexpected hug. Yes, there are challenges, days when you simply can't connect or do what you know. But those days usually pass. Parenting, like golf, requires patience, perseverance, and skill. The end result of parenting beats the heck out of even the best round of golf, though. My 11-year-old golf buddy is now 27. He can still hit a golf ball in a pure arc, but even better, he seems to be creating a productive, happy life for himself. And we still enjoy the occasional round of golf together. Even if I never break 90, I'm happy.
| Posted by cheryl | Monday, August 8, 2011|