Kennedy: Shotgun DNA and other parenting challenges

Kennedy: Shotgun DNA and other parenting challenges

December 4th, 2011 by Mark Kennedy in Life Entertainment

My 10-year-old son has decided he wants to play drums and shoot shotguns.

I have no problem with this. Every male child goes through a guns-and-drums phase. Still, I suspect there's more going on.

Our son is aware, for example, that his mom was a champion trap shooter as a teenager and that his dad went to college on a percussion scholarship.

Secretly, I think he would like to master both skills in an afternoon, shrug and have a drink of Gatorade. He's like that: Sweet and quietly competent on the surface but a smoldering competitor on the inside.

One of the fascinating parts of being a parent is watching your kids mature, and, at the same time, coming to a deeper understanding about yourself. For example, I've never considered myself competitive. Shy, yes; nervous, yes; but competitive, no.

... Well, maybe a little.

Through the time machine called YouTube, I found a video clip of a college drummer playing an audacious snare drum solo called "Tornado" that I once played at a competition in high school.

Suddenly, memories of my 17-year-old self started flooding back. I remember practicing "Tornado" for hours in a basement until my whole body trembled. I remember squeezing a rubber ball all day until my forearms were as hard as hickory branches.

My son saw a $600 drum set at a surplus store the other day and immediately began begging.

"I'll make you a promise," I told him. "Let me give you lessons for a year on a single snare drum, and then I'll let you audition for me. If you're good enough, you'll earn a drum set."

He nodded "yes," enthusiastically. Now, at night I can hear the patter of drumsticks on a down pillow coming from his bedroom.

On a trip to his grandfather's house on Thanksgiving weekend, he got to shoot a .22-caliber rifle for the first time. Pa-paw lined up some clay targets on a grassy embankment and showed him how to load, aim and fire.

After a few rifle shots, he said, "Pa-paw, I want to shoot a shotgun."

At first, Pa-paw was reluctant, fearing a 10-year-old would quickly become frustrated trying to shoot target clays as they whistled out of a trap house at about 50 mph.

But the boy shouldered a little .410-bore shotgun and shattered the first four clays as they streaked across the November sky. In a set of 25 targets, he broke about two-thirds and called it a day.

Flush with success, he announced he was ready to retire from soccer, baseball and track -- and presumably elementary school -- to pursue competitive shooting full-time.

Um, no.

Winning, as we all learn eventually, is not a recreational drug. It's a catalyst for hard work, a way of honoring hours of tedious practice.

That said, a competitive mindset is a durable life skill.

Something tells me that, one way or another, there will be earplugs in our future.