I think this was only the third time that Biggie’s played mini-golf. He played once with me chaperoning, at Cameron Run Park — that was teeth-gnashingly frustrating. He played once in Ocean City, NJ with his cousins — I wasn’t around for that.

This time we were at Oak Marr Rec Center, in Vienna, courtesy of one of the coupons he received from Fairfax Libraries for doing some summer reading. A nice day, a nice course — not especially fancy, but not riddled with geese poop (Cameron Run has a lot of geese).

Couple things I knew to do this time around: One, have zero to no expectations for the two-year-old. After Biggie finished with his hole, I just had JB whack the ball a few times in no particular direction and then caddy the ball over to her older brother. She was content to just see the sights and walk the course.


Two, don’t let your boy cheat. I had to persistently nag Biggie about stopping the ball with his feet or fudging his score. I think it’s an important early lesson in integrity.


Three, if you can, allow do-overs. No one likes his score for a hole to soar into the double digits. For the good first half of this course, we were pretty much alone, so I allowed Biggie unlimited do-overs on a hole, which helped keep his confidence and enthusiasm up. Later, when I saw company creeping up to where we were, I warned Biggie that his do-over option was about to expire. He was now comfortably in a groove, so he accepted that with aplomb.


Four, give some strategies for dealing with frustration. Putting’s often the not-fun part of mini-golf. It’s usually nicely satisfying to get that long first stroke, but then you have to deal with a million little taps to finish off the round. We recently watched Ping Pong Summer — not wholeheartedly recommended but somewhat charming — where the protagonist was given the advice to have a “reset routine,” a little ritual to do to help oneself relax and mentally get back in the game. The first time we did mini-golf, we talked about the importance of having something like that, and this time I had to force Biggie to take a time-out and try out some deep breaths. He’s not always receptive in the moment, but I’ll usually see him try out some of my suggestions later on, and I’ve noticed that this time out on the course he seemed more patient, sanguine, and relaxed. Better scores, too.


Five, don’t meddle too much. I made too many suggestions the first time out in Cameron Run, and that just made him edgy and take on some perfectionist tendencies. This time, I didn’t even try to be a caddy and just let him solicit advice from me if he wanted, which he didn’t. At one point, I did make a suggestion about looking at the layout strategically and using the friction of some rough patches to slow the ball down a bit. As with many things, counsel takes on more value the rarer it is.


All in all, it was a nice way to spend an hour or so on a lovely afternoon.


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