Monday, February 27, 2017

Archery with my Son: Why I Have to be Better!

This past weekend, my son and I ventured into the wilds of my Father-in-Law's backyard.  He needed to practice, as last week he was off his game at his archery lesson.  It was time to get back on track.  We set up the target so we could avoid firing into the neighbors' yard if we had missed, though the wrath of Grandpa would be the most concerning if we hit his fence.

I brought my bow to shoot as well. I too needed practice. We lined up to shoot.  I shot first.  Not bad.  Then my son shot....And for the second time we have done our "First Shot Competition", he beat me.  Same distance.  The student has become the master.  I must watch my back.

We continued to shoot.  But soon, he was faltering.  Missing the target completely.  I gave him a few pointers on stance and anchor points.  I was trying to be calm, and not have any harshness in my voice.  He started to become upset because he was doing poorly.  He was losing patience.  To which my response was to lose my patience. I was trying to help him become better, and he wasn't listening to me.  He was shooting to fast, his stance was terrible, his draw was weak.  He was falling apart.  I lost my patience.  I was upset that he was getting upset and letting it interfere with his shooting.  I made him sit down to calm down.

I should have done this much earlier.  The timeout was needed, not just for him, but for me.  After a few seconds, I realized I had to be better than my son.  I had to be his patience and my own.

Archery is not really about hitting the bullseye or being better than the next guy.  Now that may be the goal in competition or hunting, but at the heart of archery is competition with yourself.  Can I do better than my last shot?  Can I hit the same area twice?  Can I hold the bow still enough to reproduce a perfect shot?  There are many facets and micro-corrections you must make before you release the arrow.  And archery can be relaxing.  Calming yourself and breathing correctly so that next shot is so smooth, you barely feel it leave your bow.  The arrow is an extension of you. It is a literal exercise of letting go.  Something we should all practice.

In that, I must be better than my son.  He will only learn patience if I have patience.  He will learn to be calm if I remain calm.  I have to be better.  Fatherhood is difficult because you have to handle two sets of emotions at once.  Your own and theirs.

I sat with my son and apologized for losing my patience.  We discussed that archery is about having fun and enjoying the calming effect of shooting.  We talked about the importance of stance, and having the same anchor points, about being a statue when you shoot.  Some of that got through.  I have to remember that time and patience are the tools to improve; nothing happens overnight.  We shot some more, sometimes under my instruction, others under his own.  He was shooting better, but not to what he normally does.  It was visible that he was upset, but dealing with it on his own.  I elected not to get involved.  His brain was working on his emotions and he needed to do this part on his own.

We shot a few more rounds.  There were great shots, and not so great.  There were laughs and grumbles.  If he was allowed to curse, I'm sure there would have been a few.  But overall, his spirits were good.  He did not give up, he did not shut down.  It was important for him to keep going, and it was important for me to see that he is working through it because he cares.

I, on the other hand, need to practice archery more.  I missed a few times myself.  More importantly, I must practice being calm for him.  It can be easy to be angered when your child is failing at something you know they can do and do well.  In the back of our mind, our child's success is our success.  Anger is easy to access, and at times it's ok to be angry.  I tell him often, "It's ok to be angry, it's what you do with that anger that is important".  I should take my advice more frequently.

The sun was beginning to set below the tree line, and dusk slowly crept across the neighborhood.  We packed up with a few laughs.  I told him I was proud of him and that we have to keep practicing.  He went inside with a smile on his face. His attention was on his LEGO's and not pondering what he could have done better.  Tomorrow will be a new day with new opportunities.  I get another opportunity to be a better father.
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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Saturday Night Fletching

On occasions, I have some free time to do some of the many small tasks that seem to build up.  Last night I was able to catch up on some fletching for my sons arrows.

When I got these, they had the plastic vanes for compound shooting, or at least with an arrow rest.  But because we shoot traditional, the vanes would cause the arrow to bounce as it moved over the shelf of the riser. So to remedy this, I went to work.  Fletching was something I was afraid to do
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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Boy and his Cabbage

As we weaved through the jungle that is the HEB produce section, I grab a beautiful, green-leafed vegetable.  I whirl to quiz my son.

"What is this?"

I've never questioned him before on this particular plant, nor really explained to him what it is.  My assumption is he will misidentify it as lettuce. He stares, and take a moment.  I give him a hint.

"We make something sour with it."

His eye light up with the answer.

"Cabbage!" he says.

I will admit, I didn't think he would get it right, it goes to show little brains are sponges.  I must be careful not to speak my Xbox password out loud.

Cabbage.  One of the many foes of my taste buds as a young man.  As an adult, I love it.  Not boiled, but raw or fermented.  I've been making sauerkraut for about a year now.  And somehow along the way, my son has developed a taste for it.  So much in fact, he lets me know when we need to make more.  So this has become a way for he and I to bond: Food and Science.

This past week we began a new batch.  Taking one head of cabbage, I sliced it using my superb (I need a mandolin) knife skills.  I measured the salt ~1 1/2 tablespoons and mixed with the cabbage in a large bowl.  I turn it over to the boy to smash, turn, squeeze and bash until he is tired.  We let it set for a bit, and maybe give it a few more squeezes.  Then we, or sometimes just me, as he abandons me, pack the cabbage into a large mason jar and place something into the jar to keep the cabbage submerged.

It's been a little over a week and we are having hotdogs. Mmmmm, hotdogs and kraut! Yes, Please!  So, I pull out this beautiful mason jar of goodness.  I smell it....smells good but not ready.  But ready enough to eat a little.....shhhh.  The boy ask for some as well, so I place a spoonful on his plate.  He takes a bite.

"How is it?" I ask.

"It's good, but not ready.  Needs more time in the salt." he says confidently.

His mother looks to me seeing a huge Cheshire Cat grin on my face.  The pride obviously shows in my face.  I am a proud Papa. Then the science happened.  In the discussion that followed, we were talking about how much longer it needed to sit.

"Do you know why  it is changing?" I asked.

My wife chimed in with an answer and so did the boy.  It was fun to see them work through the logic in their heads.  As a scientist, I knew they were working through the data and observations, trying to determine the exact ingredient or factor that was causing the change.  Maybe she didn't recognize it at the time, but she modeled problem very well by giving her answer and her reason why she thought it was right.  They arrived at the answer: salt.  Salt had changed the environment to only allow certain bacteria to grow, allowing fermentation to occur.

"Good bacteria, right" the boy asked.

"Yes, the good ones." I replied.

He looked at the jar again, and then took another bite of his hotdog.  I hope in that moment he was filing that knowledge away.  And if I can keep adding bits of information, like science (and Star Wars)  to his head, I think I will have done my job as a father.  And it really can that easy to teach science to a 6 year old, for this round all I needed was a head of cabbage.

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