Monday, February 20, 2012

How NOT To Raise a Kid

I am a father. My son is quite a talented artist. Now 17 and a Junior in a magnet arts high school, his future is bright. His mom and I have done whatever we could to nurture and encourage this talent.

‘Encourage’ is the key word.

Last Sunday I went over to Winter Park Golf Club to play nine holes. I was on the first tee warming up when a father and son walked up to the tee and asked if they could join me. I said sure. The boy was 10 years old, dressed impeccably, sporting a fine set of fitted clubs, Nike golf bag and hat. Dad wasn’t playing. I hit my drive then stood to the side awaiting the kid’s shot. The dad started – “Now remember what the pro told you…” The boy hit his drive a little fat, about 100 yards. The father, “That was terrible. Hit another one.” The boy re-hit and it was a much better shot.

As we walked down the first fairway we made our introductions. John and John Jr. The dad was friendly towards me, but a drill sergeant towards his son. The boy missed the green with his approach shot – the dad remarked, “Is this what I am paying for lessons for?!? Jeez.”

This went on for the balance of the round. The boy walked along from shot to shot with the dad chirping in his ear. The boy never said a word – head down, determined. He didn’t look like he was having any kind of fun.

On the fourth hole the boy bladed a chip shot across the green. The dad berated him. I then followed suit with my chip shot, also blading it across the green – “Looks like my son is wearing off on you.” I demurred, saying oh no. It was a tough shot, and just because I was getting a little tired of the dad’s boorish behavior, added, “And so was his.” I was walking a fine line, as I never tell anyone how to raise their kid, because surely I would be offended if someone tried to tell me how to raise mine. But it was apparent this guy didn’t have any idea how tough this game is.

He also has no clue on how to raise a kid.

On the seventh tee, while the kid was hitting hit drive, I said to the dad, looks like he has had some lessons. The dad said oh hell yes. He’s been to the David Leadbetter academy, and is presently working with the pro at their home club. He also made it clear to me that this kid is his (the dad’s) ticket to scholarships and the easy life. He is living vicariously through his kid. It is sad. And it is wrong.

Walking down the last hole, I finally had a moment alone with the kid. I asked him, “So, are you going to play on the PGA Tour?” His reply, without hesitation, “Of course.”

Yeah, well if he doesn’t end up hating both the game and his dad before he’s 16.

Seeing my opening, I told him, “Hey, remember. It’s a game. You’re supposed to have fun.”

We putted out on the last hole, and in typical professional fashion, the boy came over to me, took his cap off, shook my hand and said, “It was a pleasure playing with you sir.” I lightly chuckled at the kid’s decorum beyond his years and said, “You too, John. Keep having fun” and shot a look at his dad. Heading to my car, I said to both of them, “Have a good evening” to which the dad replied, “Oh we aren’t done yet. We have more stuff to work on.” and marched the kid back to the first tee.

Legend has it that Tiger Woods’ dad was quite demanding on him. Earl Woods would try to mentally strengthen young Tiger by coughing in his backswing or challenging him all the time. Obviously, it worked. He developed one of the greatest players of all time. But I just cannot imagine Earl berating a young Tiger…especially in front of strangers. Tiger speaks very fondly of his dad, and that hug they had after he won the 1997 Masters seems to indicate Tiger appreciated what Earl did for him.

I am not picturing such fondness between John and John Jr.

As I mentioned at the start, my son Nick is a talented artist. I think he will go far with this talent. Now, I am far from an ideal father, but I cannot ever imagine looking at one of his drawings and saying something along the lines of ‘Jeez this is crap. That’s the best you can do? Get back to your easel.’

And that’s why Nick loves his dad.

And why John Jr. will end up hating his.

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