Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let Your Girl Shoot a Gun

On the day after Thanksgiving, there is a selection of activities from which the 45 or so Thanksgiving guests of Matt's Aunt Mabel can choose:

  1. Sydney chose to go shopping with her Grandma Janie and a bunch of people.
  2. A bunch of other people went golfing.
  3. Matt, Willow and I chose the obviously best activity, however--a trip to the firing range with a third bunch of people.
I did plenty of shooting as a high school kid back in Arkansas, and I'd forgotten how much I love it. In JROTC, however, we only shot air rifles. But Cousin Jim and Uncle Lynn, whose hobby is shooting, own a wide variety of weapons, and they were very generous and let us try out all of them. The other guys who were there seemed to prefer the big guns, the kinds with laser sights and kicks that whomp your shoulder when you shoot. I liked those a lot, too, of course, but for me, nothing beats the familiarity of a .22--it's light, has no kick, sports a simple sight, and is plenty effective for the types of shooting that I like to do. I had a fabulous time getting acquainted with this particular lovely rifle:

Matt tried out all of the weapons, too, and I tried to sway him in favor of my favorite, but in the end, he fell hard for the pistol:

The biggest surprise by far, however, was Willow. Poor Will, it turns out, although she HAS shot rifles before, has never, of course, been to such an overwhelming place as a firing range before. It turned out that she didn't really so much want to go to a firing range this time, either, but just chose it as preferable to shopping or golf.

I don't know what she was imagining the firing range would be like, but as we waited our turn, and as her cousin Jim gave all the kids a lecture on safety, and as we tried the heavy ear protection on her, she steadily began working herself up into such a fit of nerves that, by the time it was actually our turn on the firing range, she was in tears. 

Since Matt had never had a chance to be in a firing range before, and I have, I took Willow back out to the car to sit and wait for the rest of the guys, but I was VERY upset, and I'm afraid that I let her know it. It's a selfish personal peeve of mine that I take the kids to all kinds of places that I find incredibly boring, but whenever I want them to come with me to something that I really, really want to do, they often find a way to throw a fit and ruin my fun.

So selfish of me, I know, I know. And on our walk back to the car, I gave Will a selfish lecture about it, about how the firing range was perfectly safe, and a huge amount of fun, and I'd been looking forward to it so much, but now instead we were going to go sit in the car and read quietly to ourselves for two hours while everybody else had fun. 

To be fair to myself, I did ask Will several times, in several ways, if she could vocalize what was upsetting her, but who knows if she even understood, herself, what was upsetting her about the firing range, much less knew how to put it into words for me. Poor kid.

Also to my small credit, it took me about ten seconds in the car to realize what a huge asshole I'd just acted like, to my own kid, even. So I apologized, lied and said it was fine to hang out in the car, and comforted myself with the thought that Matt would certainly come and switch off with me at some point. 

I'd barely managed to finish apologizing and lying and not sounding like an asshole this time, when Willow piped back up and said that she wanted to go back in. So now I REALLY felt like an asshole, and pumped up my enthusiasm for just how totally okay it is! To sit in the car instead of going to the firing range! But Will, perhaps having renewed her courage in the quiet space, hopefully not having been cowed by what a jerk I am, but probably having realized that she didn't have two hours of reading material there in the backseat of the car with her, insisted.

So back in we went.

And to my brave girl's HUGE credit, she had an awesome time:

There's no better children's shooting instructor in the world than Willow's Uncle Lynn, and he talked quietly to her, patiently instructed her, and, completely giving up any shooting himself, gave her and the other two girls who'd come all the time in the world:

With Uncle Lynn assisting Willow, I got my selfish shooting time that I'd privileged over my kid's happiness, and Matt got his shooting time, and Willow got her shooting time, too:
And guess what?

She LOVED it!!!
Look at my kid with her very first bullseye!
 I knew she would, which is, honestly, partially why I'd been so frustrated with her. Shooting is precise, encourages focused concentration, involves some pretty awesome equipment, and can be clearly, easily, and immediately evaluated. It's individual, with your main concern being your own improved performance. It's basically everything that Willow would like, including the cool shell casings that you can collect and sit on the floor playing with when it's not your turn to shoot:

Will pocketed a ton of these, by the way, even finding the bucket where they're thrown at the end of a session and pulling out some other casings that made Jim, later, look at them and say, "Whoah! What was THIS from?!?". Flying home with them was monumentally stressful for me.

Willow spent most of her time on the rifle, including a super bolt-action one that reminded me so much of my JROTC days as a kid, but after watching me and Matt take turns shooting Uncle Lynn's pistol, she requested a turn for herself, and Uncle Lynn gamely complied:

It ended up, thank goodness, being a terrific morning, and Will ended up, thank goodness, having a wonderful time. She's such a great kid in that, even when she's protested something and thrown a fit about it and everything, when she finally submits to doing it and discovers that it is, in fact, just as great as I'd been telling her it would be, she doesn't have an attitude about it, or pretend to still hate it just because she doesn't want to be wrong. She still hates it when I attempt to gently remind her that this is why it's good to try new things even if you don't want to, but she still admits to genuinely liking what she's come to like.

And when I suggested that when we finally get our dream house with five or so acres surrounding it, we should totally buy a rifle of our own and set up a target range with a bunch of hay bales, she agreed that that was a very fine idea, indeed.


Tina said...

That is pretty cool. We just moved to Montana and have been talking about taking up guns as a hobby. No better place to learn then where we are!
I totally get what you mean about the selfish lectures. I HATE it when I do it to my kid, but sometimes I just can't stop myself. My biggest issues is when it's time for groceries. I don't really mind them, but when I haven't seen my hubby all week and this is one of our few chances to hang out as a family (lame, I know), I get really bugged when my kiddo says "Why don't you go do the groceries while Da and I stay here?" So totally not fair. Though is all honesty, she needs some time alone with her Da as well.

julie said...

I'd fight that, too, because I HATE the grocery store! I make Matt go with the kids, and I pretend that's daddy-daughter time. I bet your kiddo would equally despise that strategy.

You know, though, I keep trying to remember that when we feel like that, it's a sign that our own needs--for something fun to do for ourselves, or for family time--aren't being met, either, and I know that we're not kids, but we deserve to have our needs met, too. Of course, if I could find a way to get my needs met without taking it out on my kid, THAT would be ideal.


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