Saturday, 31 January 2009

On Coaching

Over the weekend I was working on my son's future nostalgia again (and so, vicariously revisiting my own childhood). This most recent project has moved away from the smokey and uproarious mayhem of capguns, and advanced to the more stealthy art of shooting catapults.

I was in the garden with my boy taking shots at a bucket we had placed as target some distance away, after having admonished him not to point the catapult at his sister, windows or animals.

We were (that is to say I was) having fun, and naturally being the stronger and more experienced catapultist I was hitting the bucked consistently with a satisfying clang.

He, on the other hand, was not so successful and grew increasingly frustrated by his inability to hit the target. Eventually he asked: How do you do that daddy, can you show me?

Keen to mentor him in the fine art, and eager to appear heroic, I spoke authoritatively (I improvised wildly) about arm position, shape of projectile, balanced elastic tension, being in the zone etc. and then, to make the whole inevitable experience of missing your target more lighthearted and bearable for him, I added, jokingly:

If you do that you can hit anything. See that bee over there?

I pointed at a bee some 15ft away, buzzing erratically over some flowers.

Anticipating wild laughter from my son at my imminent failure, I fired my catapult.

To my horror and his amazement I shot the bee right out of the air.

There was silence, but in my head I was going: shit shit shit shit now what.

Poker-faced I looked at my boy who stood open mouthed, his expression changing from astounded incredulity to revulsion, then back to amazement then .... well, I don't know what, disappointment perhaps. At this point I couldn't read him any more, and there was no way I could coach him through his frustration and disappointment.

You killed a bee, dad!


(time to learn to cope with disappointment by yourself, son) I walked (strutted) away.

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