Shifting the Shape of the Game

On the weekend, my eight year old son and I played mini-golf.  As I took the score card, he told me he didn’t want to keep score.  I found myself a bit attached to keeping score – what’s the point if we don’t?  But I agreed, grumbling a little in my mind.

It felt a bit strange starting, knowing we weren’t keeping score, feeling like my shots didn’t “count”.

On about the third hole, his first shot didn’t go very far.  In fact, you could probably say it failed.  He looked at me and asked if he could take it over.

Could he take it over? I realized his question was kind of pointless if we weren’t keeping score.  It didn’t matter if he “took it over” or not – it wouldn’t be reflected anywhere.  Of course, he could take another shot.

He asked the same question a couple more times and I told him it didn’t matter – of course he could.  And that was about when I realized it did matter – but in a different way than through the traditional lenses through which we were both seeing the game – me through the lens of keeping score in order for the game to have meaning and him through the lens of continuing to ask permission to re-do a shot to keep his score low.

We had shifted the shape of our game, but we both still playing by the old rules.  How often does this happen in the larger world?  How often do we continue to play by the old rules even when we know we want something different, even when the field opens up for something different to emerge.  It is only through awareness, reflection and mindfulness that we are able to fully embrace the shifting shape of the game and shape shift ourselves to flow well with the emergence that then becomes available.

In that moment of realization, the potential of the new “rules” opened up.  Not only could my son re-do a shot, but he could now “safely” develop his skill at the game without feeling the need to “cheat” to try to keep his score low.  So instead of sliding his ball into the hole, now he could “risk” hitting it to see what happened and learn how he could improve.

It was just a game of mini-golf — and it was so much more than a game of mini-golf.  Grateful to this youngster who is such a teacher in my life.