How To Survive Bowling Day When You’re Outnumbered

One thing’s for sure, it is hot. It’s hot as usual here and it’s unseasonably hot everywhere else. I know that my mini-van isn’t exactly The Weather Channel, but there is something inherently wrong with seeing this everyday:


My kids know that we don’t go out to play at the park until it drops to a cool 99 degrees. If you think I’m joking when I say that 99 degrees is cool and breezy, you don’t live in South Texas. 90 degrees is jacket weather around here.

One of the things we like to do when we want to break out of the house is to go bowling. Bowling with little kids can be a challenge- but I’ve got some pain-forged tips to make your experience a little easier.

  • You shouldn’t be the only adult, particularly if you are outnumbered.
  • That’s just stupid.
  • You need at least two. The more the better, especially if you’re still outnumbered.
  • One of you is the Designated Bowler. The other is the Designated Wrangler.

Together, you form a team, each with proscribed and inviolable duties.

  • The Bowler. This person occupies a position forward of those dots on the ground in your lane (whatever they’re called- you know what I’m talking about). The Bowler also serves as The Forward Security Element responsible for all child-movement between those little dots and the slippery broken-ankle-inducing front line.
  • The Wrangler. This person is responsible for all child-movement behind those little dots in your lane. This person serves as The Rear Security Element. This person does not bowl.
  • Perimeter Security. If you have more adults, then you can throw out people to the sides, notably in the path of clear escape routes in the direction of those rip-off dollar toy machines, arcade games or riding toys that eat your money and never move.

If you’re The Sole Wrangler, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

The Bowler’s got it easy. Here’s what The Bowler does:

The Wrangler’s just screwed. The Wrangler is the one retrieving kids playing tag with each other who are darting in front of the aspiring and supremely annoyed professional bowlers on either side of you. They’re the ones pulling little hands out of the Ball-Spitter-Outer. The Wrangler smacks fat little fingers off the computer screen before another 5 games are added to the bill. And, the Wrangler hurdles over tables and people to get to the bowling ball rack where a 15 lb ball is about to be dropped by a 2 year old on his own big toe. Guess who The Wrangler normally is. Mom The Martyr. That’s right.

A good Wrangler is a master of anticipation. Like a seasoned basketball player in a man-to-man defense, a good Wrangler always keeps her body between her opponent (insert kid or kids’ name(s) here) and her opponent’s goal (that would be any place but where you actually want them) using the devices of peripheral vision, intuition, and anticipation. Anticipation may be the most important tool of all.

A good Wrangler anticipates escape routes and danger zones. She enforces mitigating security measures and creates a makeshift physical perimeter by employing: man-made obstacles (blockades of purses, strollers, and diaper bags), pre-existing natural obstacles (bolted-down swivel chairs, and that bowling ball ejector thingy) and effective observation techniques from a reliable vantage point giving a clear view of the entire bowling alley. Standing on top of the table to scan the room usually works for me.

In case anyone is wondering: I AM A GOOD WRANGLER.

I am good, because I think like this:

Despite the disproportionate duties, bowling days really are worth any hassles. Everything, good or bad, happens inside an air-conditioned building. It’s a bonding activity. And when you go with small kids, it’s also pretty hilarious.

The slow ball tapped by a toddler’s meek touch that stops in the center of the lane is cliche. But, have you seen a 6 lb ball come back to you after it’s already stopped dead? I have. Often.

Not to brag, but when my kid pushes the ball with all the force of weak fart, it actually comes to a complete halt at the end of the lane, just on the precipice of the welcoming but denied gutter. It then begins its slothful journey back to us. If you want to get scientific about it, I figure it’s really, most probably, the effect of vibrations.

The copious and deafening strikes occuring in the lanes next to us stir the stagnant orb back to life and rock it whisperingly back in our direction. But, that’s way above toddler logic. My son squeals happily every time it happens. He, and his astonished peers, are convinced that he’s got magic bowling ball summoning powers.

There’s one of our stalled balls on its unfulfilled journey. That ball actually made it’s way back to the center of the lane as it dutifully answered my son’s convincing calls to come back before the bowling alley manager came to retrieve it for us. It happened a few more times before the guy decided to just occupy a perch down by the bowling pins until we were through.

This is all not to say that little kids never knock pins down. They do. The video here shows one of the more successful ball tosses amongst three small kids we took on one particular bowling expedition. [youtube]

You can see why it took us an hour and a half to finish just 8 frames, 2 shy of a full game. The kids had culminated by then, and before the first game was even over, we took off for some pizza and bubble-gum-gummy-bear-chocolate-chip ice cream.

All things considered, you’d do well to remember the bowling alley as an option for a hot day activity. It gets you out of the sauna and you might even have some laughs between panicked screams.

When you do go, you learn quickly that bowling with toddlers is not about the number of games you finish. It’s not even about the number of frames you finish. It’s about the time you spent together. If you’re lucky and smart, maybe you won’t make yourself the martyr and you’ll give your husband the kid-wrangling duties.

But no matter what- after all the cool air, and knocked down pins, gutter balls and bruised toes, can you guess the very best part? The Bargain. Every time we go, we walk out with another cool pair of shoes for just one buck! And you can’t beat that! Look at my son’s newest shoes!

Wow!  This blog post was “Freshly Pressed” on the home page on August 9th!  What an honor!    Woo Hoo!  🙂

102 Responses to How To Survive Bowling Day When You’re Outnumbered

  1. Bowling with kids sounds like an insane hassle. I haven’t done it since I was a kid so I wouldn’t know that finer details but it makes me think that they should make special kids’ lanes or something. With baby bowling balls and very tiny lanes.

    • Well, they do have bumpers and some places even have ramps for little kids to push the ball down to gain momentum. But, a lot of things that sound terrible with kids turn out to be the most precious. 🙂 I like your mini bowling alley idea, though!

  2. I found this to be very cute, and oh so true. Well described, especially all those money eating machines the kids love to play while Dad is bowling. And the video of the slow bowler, I remember it well. Thanks for the chuckle.

  3. OMG this is hillarious!!! I have had the unfortunate experience of going bowling for kid’s birthdays – lets add sugar and then sugar high to the already choatic mix. Congrats on being FP!

    • Oh! Then you must know what those dots are called! hahaha! I was thinking actual bowlers would know! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed it- There might be a tiny bit of creative hyperbole in the post, but not much. 🙂 Thanks for writing in!!!!

  4. Great pictures. I must confess that I love bowling with the kids . . . it is the only time I can use the bumpers without getting funny looks. Congrats on freshly pressed. Happy wrangling!

    • Oh! I used to visit Canada in the winter and went to college in Vermont! That is bitter, bitter cold! We often joke down here in South Texas that the Summers are like New England Winters in reverse- You stay in because it’s so miserable outside! haha! It’s just not as treacherous for us to get to the bowling alley as it is for you! No snow tires required- 🙂 Thanks for writing in!

  5. I haven’t been brave enough to take my crew bowling, yet. But when (or if) I do? I’m going to bookmark this on my phone so I have something to laugh about during Three-Year-Old-Melting-Down Version 227. Thanks for the giggles!

  6. Trust me, it’s not just hard on the adult security brigade. I work in a bowling alley where we host birthday parties, day cares, and plenty of family open bowling. The parents may take care of behind the dots and between them and the foul line (that’s what the front line’s called), but we take care of anything past the lane, including the ball return (the ball-spitter-outer). This can mean oil-skating little kids.

    Just so you know, it’s not the vibrations that send the ball back. That’s all physics and gravity and scientific stuff. Go to a site like and take a look at the inside of a bowling ball. You’ll understand why.

    Great post!

  7. Saw your post on freshly pressed today…

    My parents owned a bowling alley when I was growing up. This article made me laugh at the memories I have of being a kid in the bowling alley! I was frequently the one they would send down the lanes to fetch the stalled bowling balls…

  8. Haha! I only went bowling once with a group of friends, and I was doing my Math homework in between bowls (is that how you say it?). Much to their surprise I even got a strike! So ha, I’m a girl, I can multitask. The whole thing was already a mess with 6 teenagers, I can’t imagine what it’d be like if it were 6 kids. I’d probably just…go crazy and tie them to the chairs or something. Relax–I’m kidding.

  9. I super LIKE your post! 🙂 I will convince dear husband to go bowling with the kids then! 🙂 We have a “just turned” 4 year old and an almost 2 year old. Let’s see how it will turn out.

    • I wish you the very best of luck! One of our play date groups was talking about doing one at the bowling alley- and we’ve actually discussed that with little kids, the lines need to be short. They need to be occupied or entertained between turns- so cheering for the person who is up is one distractor. But, you may want to have some other distractors up your sleeve, like maybe something to color or a matching card game, song annd dance- just in case you need them! If it’s too hard, go get ice cream. hahaha! You should let us know how it goes!

  10. Hi
    Enjoyed your post. I was wondering if you had an armed forces background, given the way you put up the strategy, and surveillance bit. And got to know you indeed had a similar background.


  11. Great description of this activity from start to finish. Wrangler is a thankless job. And animals have died and fossilized in the time it takes our kids’ balls to get to the end of the lane. Congrats on Pressed.

  12. Do you suppose single parents could do it something like this:

    1. Drink a pot of coffee an hour before the activity starts
    2. Bring a whistle and…
    3. Hope for the best? 🙂

    • I think single parent friends should call in any friend or family reinforcements they can find! But, then again- they pull off a pretty hard gig on their own every single day so maybe they are already seasoned “wranglers”? hahaha! Thanks for the comment!

  13. This is a great instruction manual for people who don’t have kids, but DO have nieces and nephews. I feel totally prepared to take them bowling now! I think I will also get bumpers though, so everyone feels like a winner.

  14. In college I used to work part-time at a bowling alley. Half the time the adults were much more of a pain than the adults and teens. This was very entertaining.

  15. Hilarious and wise post–especially relevant for me after surviving our youngest’s first bowling trip.

    Love the video–and agree the slow ball does add extra time.

  16. Pingback: Freshly De-Pressed | critters and crayons

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