Friday, September 21, 2007

Lessons from Tiger

I took the day off from work yesterday and went golfing with my youngest son. I am not a good golfer at all (my streak of never breaking 100 is intact), but I do love to play the game, especially when I'm with one or both boys.

We had survived four holes but on the 5th hole, Patrick's game deserted him and -- he being a Collins boy and all -- he was frustrated that his expectations were not meeting reality. The occasional golf club would go whizzing through the air with every bad shot and by the end of 6 holes, I wasn't sure we were going to make 9, let alone 18.

"One of the things that makes Tiger Woods great is his ability to forget about the past holes and shots, and concentrate only on what he can do something about now -- the next shot. It's a metaphor for life," I said, hoping he would understand how it applied not only to the game, but hoping that he would see how it applied to his other troubles, and hoping he understood what a metaphor is.

I said all of that as I took a mighty swing in the middle of the fairway with a 3-iron, driving a divot 25 yards and the ball about 30, as I added, "of course Tiger Woods is a pussy."

By the 7th hole -- a Par 3 -- I was in a bunker, Patrick was 10 yards from the hole with his first shot. I don't know if he got the message, or got lucky. But his game was improving; mine was tanking.

A couple of hours and Patrick's first birdie -- ever -- later, I had no game at all and the 18th hole opened with a terrible shot on the old man's part. A second shot was so bad I could only think of one thing to do. And so I threw my golf club across the fairway.

I tell this story because of a comment my oldest son made when I was telling it to him today. "Typical parental 'do as I say; not as I do,'" he said.

So now I need to come up with another metaphor; one that reveals parents not as people who think they are perfect but don't live their perfection, but as flawed creatures -- just as flawed as everyone else -- including kids -- but striving nonetheless, against all odds, to try to be, not perfect, just better. Better than an hour ago, better than yesterday, better than when we were at 20. Quite often failing, but still swinging nonetheless.

My wife tells me my kids are afraid of disappointing me, which must be an awful thing for them. If only they knew -- as they will someday -- that we are all afraid of disappointing someone, that we are frustrated by our own imperfections, and that the only difference between us all is that we are at different stops on the same journey.

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