Michelle Martin

Lessons from mini-golf

Sunday, July 3, 2011

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

Those were the words of Jesus to his followers, which conclude the Gospel for July 3.

Jesus’ promise of rest sounds wonderful, especially in these days of hyperscheduling and 24-hour communications. As a parent who sometimes feels like her primary job is to get her kids to their activities on time, I’d sign up.

But it’s not that easy. The promise of rest comes with a request to take up a yoke and carry, no matter how easy or light. Apparently, no one is getting off scott free.

It’s sort of like summer vacation once you have kids. The other day, I took Frank to play miniature golf, just to get out of the house during a threeweek stretch when he had no sports camps or anything else going on.

In general, I like miniature golf. I remember going when I was a kid, sometimes with both my parents, sometimes with my mother and a neighbor and her children. I don’t recall the place as being much to look at. It had orange and white painted obstacles set on outdoor-carpet greens. Nothing moved. As the youngest of the kids there, and probably the least coordinated, I can’t say it was ever a great time for me. But it was fun to do something different, breaking up the seemingly endless days of summer.

Fast forward about 35 years. The days of summer are not so lazy. Somehow, society has mandated that kids get 10 to 12 weeks away from school in the summer, without making arrangements for their parents to get the same. So parents end up working harder to make sure they are at the very least safe and supervised and at best active and engaged all day. Caroline is singing and dancing her way through the summer with a performing arts day camp, and now that we are into July, Frank has a smorgasbord of hockey and baseball camps to keep him busy.

But that wasn’t the case at the end of June, so we headed out to play miniature golf.

I knew we’d have to bring Teresa with us, and I knew she’d have to stay in her stroller, both for her safety and that of the golf balls of every player on the course. She likes to pick up small things and move them around.

What I hadn’t counted on was the stairs we had to carry the stroller up and down, the barriers we had to maneuver around, the water hazards we could no longer just step over. Our literal burden — of stroller plus toddler — was not so light in a physical sense.

But it was well worth it. Miniature golf is still fun, even for a 40-something, especially when you get to watch a 10-year-old crow over a good shot. Watching a 17-month-old laugh at her big brother’s antics makes it even better.

From the Gospel accounts, it seems that Jesus liked having children around. Spending time with them can offer a chance at renewal — not a bad trade for a little heavy lifting.