Today we went bowling to celebrate my sister's birthday. I had a blast. While I didn't make it to 100 (98) was my high, it was fine. The competitive edge I'd felt when I was a kid, my frustration with my brother always beating me—he did again today—my feelings of inadequacy were gone. I reveled in my strike, brought in a couple of spares, and appreciated every pin I knocked down.
This was not the case for everyone. My father had to leave, in absolute frustration, before we even got our shoes on, his wife's back was hurting and they headed home within minutes of getting to the bowling alley. My sister in law broke 2 nails within 3 frames. My husband broke one too. Some of us were STARVING which led to far more tater tots and french fries than I thought we could polish off.
The worst though, the most miserable people on the planet or at least at Bowlmoor early this afternoon, with faces so pained, so tortured, so mopey, were my kids. It was as if we asked them to do laundry for the entire building. To scrub the bathtub with their toothbrushes. To practice their violins until their fingers bled. And they don't even play violin.
They were at the place where distraught meets morose.
It wasn't pretty.
I realized, more than halfway through the game, that they were bowling, for the first time, without bumpers. And to be brutally honest, they both sucked. If a point or two was scored, it was a relatively shocking surprise. Their games were more about how long those balls could teeter on the edge of the gutter before falling in. We had a bowling technician raise the bumpers, which were covered in tiny red lights, and life got slightly better. Slightly.
As we hit the daylight, after a couple of hours in the faux late night hipness, their mood improved dramatically. Thank god. And I realized, as we walked home, how easy we make it for our kids these days. Instead of teaching them how to bowl, we give them crutches so they can't fail. When I was their age I had to try harder. To concentrate, to practice, to learn. I was never great, but I improved to the point that I didn't role a gutter ball every time. They're not learning that.
Until 6th grade Iz never had a test that was graded. How can you know if you're doing well in school without being challenged and having concrete markers letting you know where you are? Our neighborhood elementary school tracks emotional development and dozens of other inane categories, but until recently, didn't have expectations about spelling, punctuation or grammar.
This lack of accountability isn't just with my kids. It's seems to be a generational thing. Very often there aren't "winners" anymore. Everyone gets a trophy for participating. Or, to push it even further, we live in a society where people want instant fame and fortune without actually having to make an effort. Reality TV shows have created countless wannabe "stars" who expect to be at the top of some food chain for nothing other than generally embarrassing themselves on TV. Full disclosure, my half brother's on the new season of Tool Academy on VH1, a reality show about asshole boyfriends and the women who "believe" they can change them. I have no doubt he'll end up with more fame than I did, writing a book that shines a light on issues all women need to be talking about.
Effort, hard work, experience aren't expected, appreciated, celebrated anymore. There's such a sense of satisfaction people are missing these days. The feeling of achievement after struggle is unlike anything else. Whether it's knocking down bowling pins, acing a test, getting a well-deserved promotion, working through rough spots in relationships—complacency is, sadly, the new perseverance.