If ever there was a sporting analogy for parenthood, golf is it. There are traps and hazards and obstacles and bad lies, misplaced shots and errors in judgment and bad bounces. Even the professionals have bad days and miss putts. It looks so darn easy on television, yet simply breaking even is a good thing.
Unfortunately, it seems that in my children’s eyes, I’ve gone from being a pro to having a serious handicap.
I remember how those eyes used to sparkle with awe, when the kids thought I knew everything. Oh, sure, my daughter caught on while she was still in diapers, but my son? He held out, God love him. Despite evidence to the contrary, including teaching him that beating a smoke detector senseless with a broom was an acceptable way to turn it off and that ironing clothes might be harmful to the environment, he steadfastly clung to the illusion that Mommy knew some things.
Then he decided to play golf. I couldn’t have been more thrilled, because I love the game and hoped that at least one of the kids would love it too. I think my son was impressed with my knowledge as we watched tournaments on television, and was therefore comfortable when I suggested I could teach him to play.
It could be argued, I suppose, that someone who has played a sport for 25 years and gotten steadily worse is probably not the ideal teacher, but of course hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? I figured I could teach him the basics and send him out. Hey, it’s worked for me so far (“she said, somewhat defensively.”)
I got him some clubs and took him to the driving range. I took the driver in my hands and showed him exactly how to hold it. Left hand here, right hand here, pinky fingers here. Stand like this; keep your feet straight and your head and shoulders down so that you’re looking at the tee after the shot.
I then gave him a bucket of balls and said, “Okay! Go get ‘em, tiger! Drive away! Then we’ll play nine holes and I’ll have a golfing partner for the rest of my life! Woohoo!”
He looked at me adoringly and stepped up to the tee. His face beaming, ready to conquer this game that looks so darn easy, he took a swing. Then he took another. The ball wasn’t going very far. Eventually he turned to me and said, “Mom, what am I doing wrong?” I encouraged him to keep at it.
“You’re doing great, honey! It’s a hard game to master, but just keep at it! Practice, practice, practice!” All I needed was pompoms and a bullhorn.
And he kept at it. We played faithfully, and I kept telling him, “It’s okay, honey! You’re doing great! Look at how long Mommy has played, and I still can’t get it in the air!” This was beginning to lose its consoling effect. One day at the driving range, after a particularly frustrating bucket of balls, I saw a pro wrapping up a lesson. As he gathered his things and walked by, I asked for help.
The pro watched us swing a couple times, then stepped up to my son. “I’m going to change your grip a little,” he said, changing his grip completely. “And do you see how you’re standing straight ahead? I want you to pivot off your back foot so your bellybutton ends up facing where you want the ball to go. Plus, you have to see where your ball went, right?”
After the adjustments were made, my son started driving the ball 175 yards. He looked back at me with what may have been a glare. “Okay, okay,” I said tightly. “So the only two things I taught you about golf were wrong! I’m sorry! It’s not like everything I’ve ever said is wrong!”
With likely visions of smoke detectors and wrinkled shirts clouding his memory, he went back to driving the ball. The last thing I heard as I slunk away was the pro telling my son, “Hey, at least she didn’t tell you that mothers get a stroke a hole – hahaha!”
This I’ve learned:. Kids don’t necessarily remember how they got to where they are, but they’ll remember you were there for the trip.
It’s Me, Maggie is written by Maggie Lamond Simone, author of the book From ‘Beer to Maternity’, which captures the wit and wisdom of her adventurous life as a late-blooming adult, and then wife, and then parent, and through it she shares the intelligent and wonderful insights she’s acquired with the rest of us. Write Maggie at email@example.com