In Russia, it’s called “baking pancakes”, in Poland, “letting the ducks out,” in Ireland, “skiffing” and in the Ukraine it’s known as “letting the frogs out.” But in our house, and I suspect in yours, too, it’s simply called “skipping rocks.”
A few nights ago, after a long day at the office and an hour or so before the sun set behind the mountains, I took our boys, Trent and Troy, over to Monument Lake to teach them the fine art of skimming stones. I think Jean probably appreciated the break, and what better “guy outing” than to hurl some rocks across the water? Mindless and harmless fun. The perfect outing, I thought, free of hassle and expense, a throwback to simpler days, before Wii and WiFi dominated childhood.
It didn’t take long for the boys’ unique personalities to emerge. Trent is the ‘engineer’ of the family, a boy who appreciates the precision of things and strives to maximize the output in accordance with his effort. He absorbed the informal lesson, hesitated, calculated and executed. Before long, he was counting five skips per throw. A natural! Troy, on the other hand, just went for it, chucking one rock after another, not a care in the world, but having the time of his life all the same.
Looking out of the corner of my eye, I could see a few fishermen off in the distance, obviously irritated at our presence, bothered a bit by the turmoil we were stirring up in the previously placid waters. But they seemed to see the smiles and obviously heard the laughter and the innocent sounds of boys at play. There would be no argument. We would peacefully co-exist on the lake that night.
I was surprised to learn the other day that, believe it or not, there is an organization called “The North American Stone Skipping Association” and its members participate in contests all across the world. And like everything else, there’s a world record out there just waiting to be beat. A fellow by the name of Russell Byars skipped a stone 51 times on July 19, 2007. I guess everybody needs a hobby. I’m curious how he got so good at skimming stones. I’m lucky if I get six or seven skips per throw.
It’s a wonderful thing to stand by your son’s side and watch him experience some of life’s simpler pleasures for the very first time. We’re so often reminded to teach them the big lessons: memorize the Scriptures and love and respect those with whom they live and play. This is a good thing, of course, but it’s also refreshing to just play, free of structure and the confines of a traditional sport.
Standing along the shore with these growing boys, I couldn’t help but see how what we were doing was nothing short of a metaphor for everyday life. Raising kids can be a real challenge. Sometimes even our best efforts result in a big “clunk” and a spectacular splash that causes ripples, or even a few waves. Yet, there are other times when life seems to “skip” along with a graceful and elegant ease. Sometimes the discrepancy is caused by the surface of the rock; very often it’s the trajectory or speed of the throw. The point is to prepare, execute and take your best shot.
I’m not sure I have the heart to tell Trent about Mr. Byars, but by the time the summer ends and the leaves fly this fall, I suspect he’ll be well on his way to giving the Guinness World Record holder a run for his money. I just hope those fishermen will cut us some slack.
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