So, I’m a father of 3 sons. Twin six year olds, and a fourteen year old honest to goodness moppy read headed gangling fourteen year old. You would think that having three boys would never be an issue, but then you most likely would be a parent of girls only. Having boys is like standing in the middle of tornadic chaos that swirls around you always attempting to overwhelm you. You learn that you don’t have to keep up with the wind as long as you just stay in the middle aware of the approaching doom. That is what being a parent of ruffian children is about. Then you hand them a weapon and teach them how to use it.
Archery is an interesting sport. You can do it at any age and with my kiddos that is important. My two six year olds are the size of most four year olds. Built tiny like their mom (versus rotund like their father) they are quicker of wit and smart to boot. These little guys love the idea of Archery. Our first lesson was to not push Archery. They will come to it if allowed the freedom to explore. The struggle is to find the balance between opportunity and the discipline to allow growth. We found that by “teaching” the rules, and allowing for mistakes, they self disciplined themselves into a model of learning. Still with their tiny mini-Genesis bows they manage at 9 meters to hit the target.
A larger kid like my step-son is a different character. How do you take the kid and offer Archery, balanced with school, balanced with a social life, balanced with the malaise of being a teenage kiddo. If you dare you allow them to find the path and you offer alternatives along the way that you can live with. With grades we never even though about taking JOAD away because of grades. Computers, game consoles, privacy, and other distractions were removed from his life. His Martin Slayr remained. But, balance was about insuring that some paths were left open. So, as I sit here in the front room of my house I can here my kids unprompted repeating the nine steps to the ten ring. You can”t force that kind of dedication.
It was hard when I first showed up at JOAD to just turn my sons over to some strangers to handle sharp objects and then fling those sharp object around the range. I’m still feeling queasy weeks later. My oldest has been to the emergency room more than some ER doctors. At our local JOAD our level 2 coaches are in the trenches of the discipline. We have one level 3 coach and his skill and consummate professionalism are awesome. This made the fear of impalement much less and the hope of injury mitigation much higher. We do still caution the little guys to “Don’t AIM at the COACH”.
It’s hard for a parent to not want to get involved in the process of teaching their kiddos. My wife and I do a lot of extra teaching inside the home. It is our profession after all. Our little ones know how to read, do most basic arithmetic and are cognizant of using the computer. You want to help. But, you can’t. No matter how much I try to help I’m not a coach. I’m not the trusted third party that can instill the correct discipline in my child without being their parent too. Sure I can do some remediation exactly like the coach says, but the parental relationship will always get in the way. I need to be my child’s advocate without being another drain on their experience.
My answer was simple. I started shooting the senior league. I get some benefits of shooting, and my wife is shooting too. Our kiddos get the time down between lines while we don’t interfere in their “processing” time because we are shooting. This works very well for us. I purposely try not to watch as the coaches and older JOAD kids help my little guys. It’s not that I don’t want to. I desperately want to help them. But, the best thing I can do is cool my jets peering from behind the bow racks. They advance and learn much faster from others as they perceive their peer group.
My older (step) son is self directing and I can help him some. I make sure his equipment is the best we can afford. I help him set it up, and then make sure the coaches know where we are going with his equipment. Of course since I’m shooting too.. I can always add some new item to his set up each week and insure he doesn’t out shoot me. Not that I would ever compete with my own son. No really. I think he might be getting wise to that tactic now.
Maybe I’ll become a coach some day. My skill level continues to increase, my knowledge of the sport does too, and while I’m not highly competitive I’m finding myself loving the sport. I don’t think coaching my own kids even with the skills of a coach would be the right solution for my family. It would have to be about helping other peoples kids. I can see how some people can coach their own kids though. Maybe part of the issue is our coaches are so good I’m not needed. I still want to support them and help the JOAD group as much as possible. Some of that help is just staying out of the way.
In the end if I don’t push my kids, if my kids push themselves, if we insure the growth of the sport, when given the opportunity we choose to help, and perhaps most important we support our local JOAD my kids will have some awesome memories shooting arrows with dad. I definitely got lucky since our local JOAD group is so great.
Just some Sunday reflections on family and archery.