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Babes In Bowling Land

There’s this television show
Maddie’s addicted to: “Davey and Goliath”.
It’s a 1970’s claymation show about a boy (Davey) and
his dog (Goliath) that the Lutherans put out as a healthy choice in
kid’s programming. It’s surprisingly progressive for
its time – Davey in 1975 has way more many multi-ethnic
friends than Maddie unfortunately does now – and with its
great gospel lessons is one of the few shows Maddie can pick from
for her daily “video”.

One particular episode has fascinated Maddie for months: Davey
learns to bowl. Of course, the show isn’t about the bowling,
it’s about learning to enjoy what you do and not have to be
perfect at everything, but Madeleine’s fixated on the
bowling. She’s nagged me endlessly about wanting to go
bowling, and I’ve put her off by telling her she’s too
young, that the balls are too big and heavy for her. But I read in
a local magazine about a 3-year-old bowling league (!!!) and,
feeling guilty, called a local alley and discovered that, indeed,
Maddie could bowl any time. I stuck the information in my back
Mommy pocket for a blah day.

Yesterday dawned sullen and blustery, with 30-mile-an-hour winds
whipping through our back yard, and I decided it was Bowling

“Maddie, today I thought we could go
bowling!” I said over breakfast.

A huge smile split her face, and she said in disbelief, “Am I
big enough now? Can I hold the ball?”

An hour later, Maddie, Cora, Mommy, and Gamma all piled in the car,
Madeleine talking nonstop. “Where is the bowling building?
Are we almost there? Is it far away? Do you see it? When will we
get there?”

Once we got the parade inside, we all marched up to the customer
counter. “We’re here to bowl,” I said
half-apologetically. The man behind the counter smiled at Maddie.
“Do you like to bowl?” he asked.

“Well –“ Maddie began earnestly,
“I’ve never really bowled before, but I’m a
champion bowler.”

Okay . . .

We got Maddie all set up in a lane with bumpers so she’d
never get a gutter ball, and she picked out a special lighter ball
just for kids. Shoes turned out to be a problem since they
didn’t have any small enough, but we were given permission to
bowl in socks as long as she was careful.

There are some things you look forward to as a parent simply
because of how much joy you know it’ll bring to your
kids’ faces. This whole bowling thing, I have to say, did not

Maddie bowled two full games, really getting into it and averaging
a 60 game. I dearly loved seeing her pick up that ball with both
arms, then struggle to the foul line, plop it down between her
legs, and give it a good granny shove. The bowling alley’s
score board had a nifty radar in it and was gracious enough to
inform us that Maddie averaged just over two miles an hour with
each bowl. And believe me, it felt slower sometimes as I watched
that poor ball creep towards the pins. Sometimes the game looked
more like pinball, the ball bouncing from bumper to bumper before
ambling up to the pins. Once she bowled so slowly that, though the
ball eventually kissed four or five pins, none of them fell over as
the ball finally made its way to the gutter and passed out.

But far better than watching the game was watching my daughters
absorb this new experience. We were all about fifty years younger
than most of the other bowlers, and no one could stop peeking down
the lanes at my two girls. Some of the time, I’ll admit,
Cora’s separation anxiety was so high that she fussed the
whole time I would bowl a turn before picking her back up again,
but after a while she got into the new surroundings and began
toddling around, walking several lanes down to say hello to the
nice bowlers. Cora loved standing at the ball return and watching
them pop out the conveyor belt onto the tray, even though it scared
her a little bit each time. She’d stand there, the fan belt
breeze blowing on her face, her hands tightly gripping the sides as
she tensed for the surprise, then Pop! Out it came. Good stuff.

Will we ever see a professional bowler in our family? Based on
today’s performance, I’d say not. But by the time we
left to go home for lunch, we’d had a great time, bowled two
games, and chatted up several people. Cora had inspected the carpet
for dropped food, and Maddie had gravely stood and watched the
office personnel through their window for what must have been
several unnerving minutes. All in all, a fabulous time.

And in case you’re wondering, I really suck at it. Being beat
at bowling by your first-time two-year-old is a humiliating
experience, even as I comforted myself with the knowledge that she
was using those stupid bumpers. But then I’d see her jump up
and down and say, “Good job, Mommy!” when I knocked one
pin down, and I’d remember –

It’s not really about the game.

But in case you want to see the little bowler in action, click on
the video link below.


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