Remember how I talked about not having family traditions a while back? Well, one of our family non-traditions is to give Big Brother the opportunity to choose two special family outings each school holidays. During the June/July holidays we went to the zoo and saw a movie at the cinema. For the September/October break, he asked to go to the museum/art gallery and Ten Pin Bowling.
On Friday we went bowling.
Big Brother has been excited about this for months. He’s talked about little else since the holidays started. And finally, the day came. We paid for two games, changed into trendy bowling shoes, chose our bowling balls, and got comfortable in our lane. My husband and I had our first bowls, and then it was Big Brother’s turn. Finally.
He was happy. Confident. Sure he’d get a strike. Why? Because when we visit his grandparents, he plays Wii Bowling and it’s nothing for him to get eight or nine strikes per game. So despite my cautioning him that it was a bit different when playing for real, he was sure he was an expert.
He picked up his bowling ball. (“It’s very heavy, Mummy.”) He approached the lane. He realised he couldn’t swing his arm quite as enthusiastically as when he’s just holding a Wii remote. But he gritted his teeth, and bowled the ball.
It rolled forward slowly. Well, not so much forward as at a very sharp angle across the lane where it crashed into the bumper (because we’re not cruel enough to make him bowl without bumpers for his first games) and then wobbled along the lane to the end, dropped into the gutter, and hit nothing.
Big Brother watched it the whole way, his eyes glued to the ball as though he could make it go faster and straighter and better through willpower alone. When the ball vanished behind the intact pins, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and asked, “Do I get another try?”
After the fourth frame, Big Brother had three points and wanted to go home. “I don’t like bowling,” he said. “Can we just go home now?”
It broke my heart to see him so deflated, so clearly frustrated and upset. But I wasn’t ready to let him give up so quickly. “I know it’s frustrating, Sweetie. But if you want to get better at bowling, what do you need to do?” I asked.
“Practice and use Patience and Care,” answered Big Brother, quoting my usual mantra. He tried again. The ball wobbled a bit further than the previous time, then rolled along the bumper and dropped into the gutter. One pin.
Every time it was Big Brother’s turn, I encouraged him to give it his best shot. By the end of the game, he had 11 points.
We didn’t dwell on the numbers. We all high-fived each other and started game number two.
I have no idea how well or poorly I bowled during the next game. I barely even remember taking my shots. I was so focused on Big Brother; on encouraging him to keep trying, to keep practicing, to be patient and take care. And it was working. He was getting better. A bit. After nine frames, he had 15 points, so he’d already bested his previous game. But as far as he was concerned, one or two pins a frame wasn’t anything to get excited about.
My husband and I finished our games and Big Brother stepped up for his last bowl.
He picked up his ball and approached the lane, just like he had the last 39 times. He took a deep breath. I held mine.
He bowled. For the first time, the ball rolled straight down the centre of the lane.
Nine pins fell.
Tears sprung to my eyes and I cheered louder and longer than I have for any sporting triumph ever. My husband was on his feet yelling. Even Little Brother, who’d been sitting peacefully in his stroller watching the game, clapped and yelled excitedly.
Big Brother’s turned to look at us, a huge grin on his face. Then he started jumping up and down, laughing at pointing at the decimated pins. We cheered, we hugged, we high-fived. I’m sure the other bowlers thought we’d lost our minds.
On the way home, Big Brother asked if we could go bowling again next school holidays. We said yes. Then we told him how proud we were of him.
We weren’t proud that he’d knocked over nine pins. We were proud that he’d persevered; proud that he’d kept trying until his practice, patience and care paid off; proud that, despite his frustration, he’d never given up.
And I was so very, very relieved that everything had come together for him on attempt number 40. And also that he hadn’t knocked down all ten pins.
Because if he had, I probably would have burst into tears, then fainted.
Have you got a story about success through perseverance?
(Bonus points if there are tears or fainting involved.)