I took my kids to Novelty Golf and the Bunny Hutch last week when we were in Chicago visiting my family. I thought it would be fun to show them a place where I spent countless weekends in my youth. It was kind of weird; like stepping into a tin-type photograph of bygone days. My kids loved it. Thought it was cool that 30 years ago I sat, much like them, chowing on french fries and listening to really loud 80s music.
The golf thing didn’t work out that well though. I think I have an expectation problem. I was excited to go miniature golfing with them. I figured we’d play an orderly round of 18 holes, have a few laughs at balls gone astray, and grab a bite at the famed BH. But on the first hole I realized that my ideal vision of the day was not to be. I lost track of the number of strokes each child swung after about 30 seconds of watching my children, wild-eyed, flailing their individual golf clubs dangerously close to one another’s heads. “Ok, let’s not keep score,” I chirped cheerfully, still determined to make this a fun outing.
I tried showing them how to stand, how to swing, how to putt. But to no avail. They were like Thing One and Thing Two, racing around in circles and wreaking havoc throughout the course. I reached into my maternal trick bag and pulled out every parenting technique I could think of to settle them down. Finally I resorted to “If you swing that club at your brother’s face one more time, we are leaving.” The threat of missing Bunny Hutch was enough to calm their crazed spirits, at least for a while. But their reluctant submission felt forced and wasn’t at all how I’d wanted the day to go.
Defeated and a bit depressed, I walked the remainder of the course with them as they sunk putts on the 18th stroke and repeatedly swatted their golf balls into the water hole time and time again. I was relieved to learn that the 14th and 15th holes were closed due to wet paint. We skipped to the 16th and then rounded the corner to finish with 17 and 18. When we finally lost our balls in the archaic, wooden, “win a free game,” pinball machine at the end of the course, I was hot, annoyed and more than a little grateful to be finished with the first leg of our field trip.
On our way to BH the kids giggled and skipped merrily. “That was sooooo much fun,” they each shouted. “When can we do that again?” I wondered if they weren’t trying to make some ironic attempt at humor with their gleeful pronouncements. But I realized that they meant it. To them, it was really fun. There were no rules, no scores, no real limitations (beside the whole don’t whack each other in the head thing). I had had a really crappy time. But they, on the other hand, couldn’t have enjoyed themselves more.
I think that’s the hardest thing for me to get as a parent. I can be miserable and in my own head about how things aren’t going the way they’re “supposed’ to go. But in my children’s amazing ability to live in the present, they have no expectations to disappoint. Miniature golfing like insane cartoon characters is a fun way to pass a few hours. That’s all it is. It’s not supposed to be something else or to have a different outcome and they live in that reality.
So I let it go. I found myself amused by the whole experience and told them we’d golf again soon. I even promised that next time, if they wanted, I might even show them how to beat the old pinball contraption to win a free round of golf.