Shooting With Your Daughters
By Sheila Rockwell
It all started as a fluke, really. I had gone with my husband for a “date day” to the local range. This was something I didn’t mind doing, but I was never very comfortable with it—I just hadn’t had enough practice with my gun to really enjoy it and though I had my carry permit, I never carried. On the way out of the range, I noticed a sign advertising Aphrodite Shooters— a Ladies-only gun club that met weekly. The flyer said that all experience levels were welcome. As a sort of joke, I pointed it out to him. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I got more into shooting than you?”, I asked, chuckling at the thought. The lady behind the counter jumped on the chance to tell me about the club. “Oh, they have a good time!”, she said. “Come try it!!”And she handed me a card. Later that evening, I visited the club’s website and talked it over with my husband. I really didn’t have a hobby that I actively pursued. I had been talking about wanting something to do that was “mine”. He was very supportive. “Just go check it out”, he said. So I did. And you know what? I LOVED it. From the first moment, I loved it! It was like being welcomed into a family. I joined that first night, and started attending weekly. My proficiency improved immediately and I never felt like I had a “stupid” question. I loved the atmosphere of camaraderie that the ladies all shared. I loved how easy-going and friendly everyone was. I loved that the ladies sat and chatted and laughed and joked with each other before the class started, and I loved that the class was informational and professional without being too formal or stuffy. I loved that these ladies were like me. They weren’t pros, they weren’t fanatics, they were just regular moms and aunts and daughters and sisters that all had one thing in common—they just wanted to be more comfortable shooting. They wanted to know how to use their weapons effectively. They wanted to feel safe when they were alone. They were welcoming and fun and encouraging. They giggled and teased each other and “ooohed” and “aahhhed” over each other’s guns and range bags. They tried out each other’s guns on the range like girls try on each other’s clothes at a slumber party. They shared ammo and lanes and targets. They talked frankly about what they did and didn’t like and were enthusiastic when new products or ideas were presented. They relished in each other’s successes. They empathized with each other’s bad days. I had found a group of new friends and I looked forward to attending each week. It was just a few hours, but it was a stress-reliever and oh, it was fun!
Of course I talked about it at home. I told my husband about new things I had learned. I excitedly talked about things like recoil and caliber and my husband was, well…., he was impressed that I had gone from someone who was afraid to load her own magazine to someone who wanted to go to the range all the time. He dug it. He encouraged it. And then—-it happened. My oldest daughter asked if she could go with me one night. “Hell, no!” I said. This was MY thing. This was my two hours a week that was entirely kid-free. But she really wanted to try. She loved hunting and shooting rifles and shotguns. She was a mature, responsible kid. And during our classes, I often thought that the information on personal safety and protection would be good for her to know—she was, after all, turning 13 and would be starting to do things with friends—football games, movies, etc. Shouldn’t she, too, learn how to protect herself if necessary? I talked it over with my husband. “Just take her once,” he said. “She may not like it. But if she does, it could be a neat thing that you do together”. I rolled my eyes at him. “Ok,” I said. “But this is MY thing!”
The following week was my daughter’s 13th birthday. I told her that she could come with me to Gun Club. She was so excited. The ladies welcomed her immediately. They put her through the regular range and safety orientation and taught her proper grip and stance. They let her shoot on the simulator and loaned her a .22 to shoot out on the range. Like any new shooter, the club owner and the RSO took her under their wings and made sure she felt comfortable and confident.
I watched from afar, knowing she was in good hands. I wanted her to like it for herself, not because I liked it. I chatted with some of the other ladies while I waited. She bounced over to me after a while, target in hand, a wide grin on her face. The first thing she said was, “When can I come back?!” And I knew she was hooked. “
Next week, provided you have all your homework done and your grades are good and….”I trailed off, looking at the target. Most of the shots were nicely grouped in the center.
In the weeks that followed she quickly became adept at handling the pistol. The ladies in the club loved her. She carried herself with maturity, remembered the safety rules, was eager to learn, and always wanted more ammo. The owner of the range took notice of her, and offered to train her after school. She started working with him a few days a week and within a few months she had moved up to a 9mm and was shooting in steel challenge competitions. My husband was thrilled—this was something he, too, could really get into with her.
I, on the other hand, felt a little lost at first. “My” thing had suddenly morphed into an all-encompassing thing for HER. She suddenly needed equipment—a competition belt. A holster. More ammo, more ammo, more ammo. Another Saturday competition. Entry fees. Her coach loaned her a gun to use and had it cerakoted in her favorite colors. She started giving ME advice on my grip and stance. She outshot me every week at gun club. In fact, she outshot just about everyone at gun club. She started teaching the new members on the simulator. And…. she matured even more. Her sense of responsibility grew. She felt enough pressure to want to prove herself worthy of her coach’s time and generosity. She had drive. She wanted to shoot every day. She loved it. She had bad days. She hit a plateau and learned that she had to work harder to get through it. She had “girl drama” with another junior shooter. She learned to be the bigger person. She learned to ignore the drama and concentrate on the task at hand. She learned that jealousy and greed ruins friendships. She learned to lose gracefully. She learned to be gracious when she did better than others. She learned that showing respect and appreciation earned respect and appreciation in return.
How, as a parent, could I want anything more for her? And you know what? In an effort to find some alone time, I found some quality time with my daughter. She is growing up so fast. There will come a time that she will prefer to hang out with friends and boys and go to parties and football games. But not yet. Not now. “MY” thing is now “OUR”thing. We go every week together to gun club. We laugh with the ladies and they tease me about being the “mean mom”. She has about a dozen new “aunts”. Her coach is like an overprotective uncle. We go together to competitions. She shoots, I watch. The guys at the competitions are impressed by her skill and even more impressed by her character. Everyone looks out for her. Everyone builds her up and encourages her. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do for our kids? I couldn’t be any prouder.
My second daughter is now showing interest in shooting. Will I bring her, too, into the gun club? Well, when she reaches the personal goals of school and home responsibilities that her Dad and I have set out for her, you can bet on it! And when the younger two girls are ready, hopefully they, too, will join their old mom at her gun club and teach me a thing or two, too! I can’t wait.