Ollie's birthday was yesterday, and for his party Saturday he invited us to join him for bowling. The boys had never been before, and, while they were excited to be there, they were super nervous at first when it came time to actually roll a ball down the lane. As I expected they would be!
They're generally nervous of new things, both of them, and they may a fear of bowling birthdays in their blood; I still cringe when I remember forgetting, not once but twice, to wait for the machine to clear the pins fully before sending another ball down. I was 10 or 11 and bowling big balls—being away from New England at the time—and it turns out that if the ball hits the sweeping mechanism it stops, and gets stuck down there at the end of the lane. Someone needs to go get it, and the whole thing is very embarrassing.
Of course it's also embarrassing, as a father, to have both your older boys seize up and refuse to take part in a party where they're the only guests. So I encouraged them a little, and I'm proud to report that they both rose nobly to the occasion (much better than I would have done at their age, I'm sure!). Harvey took just one hands-on lesson before he saw that the thing was neither complicated nor particularly scary and he was launched on his own as a competitor in the kids' game. Zion, who as the youngest of the six kids present had to play with the adults, took a little longer to warm up to the proceedings; but after three frames of a substitute bowling for him (twice me and then once Harvey) he had it figured out, and took over for himself. Being Zion, he quickly developed his own way of doing things.
And not only did they manage to participate, they did surprisingly well! In his first game Zion managed to finish ahead of Bridget—despite rolling his ball so slowly that once it reversed course two thirds of the way down the lane and slowly, slowly made its way back to him (all the other times we saw that when a candlepin ball hits the pins at such a slow speed it bounces sideways among them, potentially doing a great deal of damage). And Harvey won the second of his two games with a score of 92, which was also tied for the highest score of the day by anyone (tied with me, natch; clearly lucky bowling results are also in his blood).
After the bowling and some ice cream we were back at the Stevenses for the birthday dinner, where again the boys impressed. They didn't eat much 45 minutes after giant ice cream cones, but how polite they were!
Bowling was the top moment of the day for Zion when I asked at bedtime. Harvey had different choice: playing King of Tokyo with the kids downstairs after the birthday dinner. But he liked the bowling too, and he's asking when we can go again.
And then yesterday morning was the big Kids Church Christmas performance. I don't have any photos because I was busy being in charge of the whole thing, but I can report that Harvey played a pivotal role. He didn't want to act (nor yet sing, under his father the musical director) but he jumped right into his job as set crew, designing sets and painting backdrops under the direction of non-family adults and then volunteering to be a part of the stage crew proper, bringing props on and off stage (ok, a prop; it was a short play). Yesterday evening the play—specifically, painting stars—was his day's highlight, and as he went to bed he asked—again—when he could do it again.
And it seems unbelievable to me, but for next year he's even thinking about pushing himself a little further. "Maybe I can be an actor next year," he told me. "Because I'll be a year older!"
Absolutely! And he's already braver today then he was two days ago; just imagine what he'll be managing to accomplish in 363 more!