Saturday, September 26, 2015

When is a Bowling Ball Just a Bowling Ball?

Teenager #1's bowling ball came in the mail the other day, and this puts me in the middle of a parental dilemma. It's possible that I may be assigning too much significance to this delivery, but, as the last 18 years has taught me, there is a hidden meaning behind most things which leads to a cause and effect quandary that can be crippling. I'm sure you've already guessed that I will now elaborate.

Teenager #1 spends his weekdays 45 minutes away at school. When the ball arrived I texted him the news in hopes of brightening his day since yesterday was hellish and hideous for him(Hidden meaning #1). His response was to ask if I could bring it out. This seems like a simple logistical question, but, in the immortal words of Admiral Akbar, "It'a a trap!"

My day was busy, but there was a window of time when I could bring it out. Would having the ball in such close proximity, however, create a distraction from work he has to catch up on (one of the sources of hellishness and hideousness); or, would having the ball there give him a little boost and make him feel a little happier thereby making catching up on work a more palatable prospect? (Hidden meaning #2)

What message am I sending though if I take time out of my day to drive this bowling ball all the way out there? Am I telling him that no matter what, I will drop everything and rush to give him whatever he wants creating the sense that his needs are above all others thereby heightening any sense of narcissism and potentially unleashing another Donald Trump on the world? Or am I communicating that I understand and am attentive to his needs and am willing to put in the extra time because he is important, valid and worthy consequently upping his self-esteem and putting the steps in place to provide the world with another Stephen Colbert? (Hidden Meaning #3)

The answer, as it often does, presented itself when he texted back saying he would drive home and pick it up. So I drove the ball out. Why? Why would I do that when he was willing to take it on himself to pick up the ball? Because the 90 minutes of driving back and forth was 90 minutes less for him to do homework.

Cause: I drove the ball out

Effect: As you've probably guessed, not only did he still not do his homework, he also never thanked me. He did not go bowling either.

Status Quo was maintained and the only expense was the time I lost to worrying, scheming and driving. So when is a bowling ball just a bowling ball and when is it a metaphor for the potential for growth and maturity? I have no idea. There have been many bowling balls in my parental history taking on many forms like birthday dinners, timely laundry so the right shirt is ready on the right day, volunteering at the snack table or to sew costumes, and so on. I seem to be obsessed with making sure my kids know I love them; and, as usual, it has nothing to do with them.

Travel back in time with me, if you will, to an era when a self-absorbed teenage girl sat on the windowsill looking out at the backyard as landscapers replaced a huge fallen tree with one newly bought, picked out with loving detail by my mother. The aforementioned teenage brat watched this effort with resentment in her heart because the the acquisition of this tree took priority over picking up my, I mean her, repaired watch, an errand she had been assured would happen earlier in the week, and again on the day before, and again on that very morning. Toss into the mix a recent divorce and the fact of being child number six, and suddenly this forgotten watch was more than just a bowling ball (Hidden meaning #4).

I remember that moment with a fair amount of shame and perspective. Shame at realizing that I, in fact, was just as selfish and myopic as all teenagers; perspective because you just never know when a gesture-small, medium or large-is making a permanent imprint. Loving someone is not easy. Though the reality of the love seems an absolute, there is a difference between knowing you are loved and feeling you are loved. Effort does need to be made, complex algorithms of cause and effect must be calculated, bowling balls have to be interpreted and mistakes and overreactions need to be allowed.

Life would probably be simpler without love and bowling balls. Less interesting, but simpler. Less messy, but simpler. Less time spent driving and fretting, but simpler. Less catch-your-breath-jaw-dropping-heart-growing-three-sizes-that-day-awe-inspiring, but simpler.

I'll take the bowling ball.

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