Letting go of mini-golf

My family isn’t real big on “doing things” at the beach.  Our family beach philosophy is pretty much, “We’re at the beach.  There’s sand, and an ocean.  What else do we need?”  It’s what I grew up with, and it’s what we do.  We go to the beach and we GO to the beach.  First thing in the morning, we get up, get swimsuited and sunscreened and go down to the water’s edge where we stay until we’re sunburned, exhausted, or chased off the sand by lightning or by darkness.  We don’t go out a whole lot, we don’t shop at the outlets, we don’t go to the arcade, we don’t go to the boardwalk.  We spend our time on the sand and in the surf.

We did something different last month when we did our whole-family trip to the beach.  My brothers, who are avid golfers, took the opportunity to introduce the kids to their sport, via mini-golf.  I was definitely excited.  Although I’m not good at it, I’ve always enjoyed mini-golf, and I was really looking forward to my kids getting some good instruction in how to handle a putter.  (I was thinking, if we start them correctly when they’re little, they won’t have to later unlearn bad habits.  Imagine how great they could be!)  Benjamin (and even Liam, young as he is) is very physically adept — he has great balance and coordination, and he picks up new physical skills really quickly.  I imagined that by the end of the course, they’d probably be putting everyone but my brothers to shame.

Seriously.  That was my mental image.

Instead, all 13 of us walked over to the golf course, and chaos immediately set in.  We had to split up in to two teams, we all had to choose different colored balls (to prevent confusion), select putters, and then we had to GET GOING!  There was a lot of urgency because we were a massive group and there were people queueing up behind us.  I was stressed about getting everyone into the “right” group and dividing us all up so that we’d all have the best time.  All of a sudden, I turned around, and Benjamin was already trying to hack away at his ball, all by himself (and failing), while Liam sent his repeatedly into the parking lot amongst the cars.  Things were deteriorating quickly.

And then, it hit me — what was I thinking?!?  It’s mini-golf.  It’s supposed to be FUN.  It’s not supposed to be serious training for future life skills.  It’s a GAME.  Who cares what team each person was on?  Who cares which ball we were hitting?  Why on earth were we trying to keep score?  I went over to help B get started and actually connect with his ball, and I reminded myself that this (like so many other things) was not about me, or about keeping score or about winning.  This was about us all being together and having a good time.  And, if my children are to one day grow up to be golf prodigies, they’ll have more enthusiasm for it if they think it’s fun than if they have a perfect grip on the club.  (There were a few cranky moments, though — from kids and adults alike — as we all figured that out.  Dan, who was holding Liam, tried to “do well” and keep his own score for about the first 4 holes.  It was a lost cause, and one he eventually abandoned.)

Once we all got over it, stopped keeping score and just started enjoying it, it was FANTASTIC.  Benjamin and Margaret routinely picked up and or kicked balls belonging to them and everyone else (sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose).  Liam had a great time picking up the balls and depositing them into the cup — an accomplishment we dubbed a getting a “Liam-assisted hole in one”.  The kids had a great time, everyone giggled, and every single “score” was both helped and hindered by someone under the age of 7.  Repeatedly.  And, as it turns out, Benjamin did get some good instruction on how to hit a golf ball.  He ignored all of it, but maybe it’s rolling around in his brain, waiting to be used in the future.  (Maybe.)

It was just another one of those things — another experience I had completely wrong expectations of in my mind.  I (foolishly, in hindsight) expected mini-golfing with kids to be much like mini-golfing without kids.  (Ha ha ha!)  It wasn’t like that at all.

It was way better.

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