Last time we took Kiddo to air rifles, there were a couple of notable happenings. The coach put tape over his left lens so that he could leave both eyes open and still focus on the front sight with his right. He seemed to take to this method very well. The coach explained to me that being relaxed is the key to improving a child’s shooting. I tend to agree. When I’m uptight, I shoot like crap. When Kiddo is not feeling right, he doesn’t shoot as well as he does when he’s happy and feeling good about himself. I make a really large effort to only offer positive encouragement and specific coaching tips to help him improve his shooting. However, if I see him doing something unsafe, I will come down on him for it. At this point, that’s a rare occurrence, usually consisting of me saying “Trigger finger!” or “Muzzle direction!” or even “Clear it!” Then, he’s gotten adequate reminder to keep his finger in check, keep his muzzle pointed in a safe direction, or to drop the mag and clear the chamber.
Another parent had brought his two daughters, who dragged in their gear in huge, wheeled, Hardigg Storm Cases. They proceded to unload their highly customized air rifles, special tripods to rest their rifles for reloading, special shooting shoes, gloves, glasses, and even some kind of fancy shooting outfit. Their dad spoke loudly for the entirety of class. He bragged a lot, and heckled his girls a lot. I try to keep my nose out of other people’s business, but I have to admit that I was a little offended. It was pretty clear that the younger daughter was not ‘in the zone’ that evening. Rather than offering encouragement and specific coaching, he loudly declared criticisms such as, “That’s not a shotgun you’re shooting there,” and “The same hole! The pellet has to go through the SAME hole!” Granted, never having been in competitive shooting, I don’t know what one needs to do to prepare for a match. It may be that he was simply trying to apply some outside stress so they would be equipped to ignore outside stressors while shooting in a match. I just got the feeling that he had pushed them, and that it wasn’t necessarily what they wanted so much as what he wanted.
On Saturday, the three of us went to the range together. After running a few rounds through my 586 and 29, it was pretty clear that I was having an off day, to my utter dismay. It had been about three weeks since I’d been shooting, and I was really looking forward to it. I put a few rounds of .22 lr downrange from a couple of the rifles, and shot a box of 12 gauge. That was about all I had the heart to do myself. Kiddo said that he only wanted to run a magazine or two of .22 lr, because his stomach ‘felt kind of funny.’ So, he loaded a magazine and took it up to the firing line.
At that point, he burst into tears. I asked him what was wrong, and he started mumbling (which did no good with live fire all around and both of us in our ear muffs). Eventually, he communicated that he wanted to shoot with both eyes open, but couldn’t manage it. I talked it out with him, and we put some masking tape over his left lens. He shot a magazine-full (after fumbling with his safety). He just wasn’t acting like his normal self, so I was staying right on top of him while he handled the rifle. After that magazine, he said he had had enough, so we put his rifle away. He asked if he could keep his target, and we told him that he could. I took down his target and put up a previous one to blast it with my shotgun. After that, Jen put up a fresh target and shot at it for a while. This is when Kiddo started crying again.
I asked him what was wrong this time, and discovered that he thought we were shooting at his target which he wanted to keep. I showed him his unharmed target, and he eventually pulled himself together. It was just so weird! He’s really not the kind of kid that falls apart and has a melt-down over stupid stuff like that. When we got home, he ate well and went to bed. Yesterday, he seemed fine. This morning, he had a little coughing and sneezing, but nothing alarming. I just really hope he’s not coming down with something. I asked him how he felt this morning, and he said he felt fine. He’s kind of proud about that kind of thing, though. I think that he’s likely to not complain if he thinks he can tough through it. So far, the school hasn’t called, so maybe I’m just being too worried.
Parenting is hard. Why does it feel like a tightrope act? I believe that if you push them too hard (as I perceived the other parent mentioned above to be doing), that it will cause later-life emotional issues. I’ve known a lot of people that were pushed when they were children who have a lot to work out as adults because of it. It’s important to encourage and provide motivation, but to push too hard is abusive. Then again, I do want to play a very active roll. To act blasé about a kid’s activities is to tell them that they aren’t important. That’s a great way to destroy a kid’s motivation and self esteem along the way. I don’t want to push Kiddo to do anything that he doesn’t have an interest in doing, but I want to encourage him when he’s pursuing his own goals. I want shooting to be a fun learning experience for him. If it’s not fun today, and he’s just run through a magazine, it’s probably time to quit for now. I said it is like a tightrope, but sometimes it’s more like walking on a knife edge.