Parenting Guru: Lessons from the gutter

At the insistence of my kids, I finally signed them up for bowling lessons. I figured bowling, how hard could it be, right? They'd get together with a couple of kids and roll a ball down a lane. Maybe they'd knock down a pin or two, maybe they wouldn't, but at least it'd be something fun to do on a Wednesday afternoon.

I never expected what happened next. This wasn't just innocent bowling for fun, this was real-life junior league instruction. There were rules, expectations, and mechanics. The teacher was a bowling professional who took junior league bowling very, very seriously. My 4-year-old son didn't know what to make of this whole bowling thing and on his very first lesson he took it upon himself to dart down the bowling lane where he quickly learned the lane was polished with Crisco. This teacher had her work cut out for her.

My 9-year-old son strut into the bowling alley with a kingpin ego ready to showcase his self-proclaimed natural ability. He quickly learned all that "natural ability" was full of bad habits and injury inducing technique.

Bowling lessons continued for six long weeks and through it all there were moments of triumph and moments of deep, deep despair. I'd never enrolled them in sports before and these basic lessons in sportsmanship, competition, and personal disappointment proved difficult for my kids. Had I failed them as a mother? Enter guilt.

Gutter ball after gutter ball, I continued to rally my troops. In a period of six weeks, I must have convinced my gutter ball gurus that bowling would only get better at least a dozen times. But would it? Even I had my doubts.

By lesson four, my kids seemed to turn a corner. It seemed as though their expectations of bowling had changed. They celebrated knocking down even two pins instead of pouting when they didn't get all 10. They began to encourage each other; tossing high fives and shouting words of encouragement. Suddenly even gutter balls were met with shrugs instead of sulks. Things were changing.

By lesson five, my youngest got his first spare without bumpers and my eldest made his first strike. The junior league cheered and each following victory proved the hard work and dedication had been worth it.

In the end, bowling proved to be so much more than rolling a ball down a lane in the hopes of collecting pins. It became an exercise in patience and persistence, expectations and motivation, attitude and experience. I would have never expected my children to learn these valuable life lessons in a rundown bowling alley, but they did.

Mommyfriend goes by Lori Garcia in real life and is a

Shine Parenting Guru . She writes at www.mommyfriend.com where she's busy finding perfection in imperfection daily. When she's not watching infomercials she's a blogger for Babble's Kid Scoop , Babble's MomCrunch , and one of the sexy founders of Project Marriage .