Saturday, April 26, 2008

golf and parenthood

This morning I took Jacob to the little golf course we joined. Mind you, he's five (well, almost six). So the time went something like this: we arrived, Jacob complained for 20 minutes about how we couldn't have a golf cart (the course refused to let us rent one because there was still patches of snow on the ground and they didn't want one getting stuck). So we spent 20 minutes processing, cajoling, soothing, and decision-making -- and at the end of this, he decided that walking (though greatly frustrating and to be avoided) was still preferable to the heinous evil called "going home."

So we walked three holes of golf. I played the holes, Jacob put his ball on the ground at times and made funny looking lunging motions at it with his little golf club. Jacob (who is up on the rules of golf after playing hours of golf on our Wii) gave me periodic reminders (e.g., that HIS ball was further from the hole and that by divine right HE should be the first to putt). I got to see his excitement in little things like chasing after the ball when I hit it, helping me to find the ball when I wasn't sure just where it had landed.

But mostly I was struck by our relationship, by his limited (though possibly age appropriate) frustration tolerance, his outbursts when things aren't going his way. And I was reminded that fatherhood (nay, parenthood) is -- if done correctly -- a kind of loaning of our frontal lobes to our children. In other words, we are (for this time in their life) their substitute voice of reason, the calm in their emotional storm. We guide, we direct, we give choices, we consider alternate perspectives.

The manner in which we respond will be imprinted on our children's brains -- creating sources of calm or fear, peace or pain. Our children have no choice but to take this loan, but only we can decide to loan something worth giving, worth copying.

Parenting can be hard. It can be hard because our minds and souls must contend not only with our own stresses, but with the intense stress that life can sometimes pose to children with little ability to handle it on their own.

But it is precisely this process that gives us the opportunity to give our children their most precious gift -- of minds and hearts formed on a foundation of peace, love, charity, and compassion.


more cows than people said...


Gannet Girl said...

Something all new parents should read.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Steve, just when I decide to come and see what's been happening here at your space, in that peculiar synchronicity which often happens in blogland, I find that you are reflecting about parenthood, when I have recently been doing the same thing, but from a somewhat different perspective.
I certainly don't think that your children, when they grow up, will be quoting those famous Larkin lines about your parenting!
All the best to you.

Katherine E. said...

Great post, Steve. Reminds me of a radio show I heard recently that interviewed Jon Kabat Zinn (sp?) and his wife whose name escapes me. Their book is about Mindful Parenting.