“If this doesn’t make you realize that parenting is more important than bowling, I don’t know what will,” said Judge Rob Miltani, who said that he had been known to roll a few strikes in his day too, although he found the couple’s obsession with the game “absolutely horrible.”
According to testimony, Janako and Delma Pikatu, of Kuopio, Finland, had gotten so wrapped-up in bowling leagues that they had begun neglecting their child, Dabi. The sport had become such a passion for both of them that they both wanted to bowl every night, and neither wanted to stay home with the child.
They began arguing over who could bowl, and who had to stay home, and the arguments became so fierce that they finally decided to get a divorce with equal custody, in order to settle the situation fairly.
However, when Judge Miltani heard the couple’s reasoning, the usual calm and thoughtful man became fired-up.
After delivering a lecture to the couple about the decline of family values, child neglect, and the social problems in Western society — issues he said are more important than bowling — he told them that he would not grant equal custody.
“One of you will have full custody,” he said. “The other will have no custody whatsoever.
“You will bowl one, three game set, and the winner will have full custody of the child,” he said. “And that’s final.”
The decision changed the attitude of both parents drastically. Before, they both wanted the other parent to keep the child. Now, faced with the possibility of having no contact whatsoever with their own child, both parents are desperate to win the bowling contest and get full custody.
“He’s my baby! My only child!” wept Delma Pikatu after the trail. Delma, 32, is a slim, attractive blond who spends her days working as a bank teller. “I can’t lose him forever. I just can’t. Judge Miltani is being unfair, and Janako is a totally different man from the one I married. He’s turned into a total jerk.”
“It’s a drastic decision,” said Janako Pikatu, 34, a blond-haired, baby-faced engineer who has a well-deserved reputation as a playboy among the ladies of Kuopio. “But one we have to live with. Judge Miltani is being hard on us, but he’s the judge. I just hope I can have a good day when we bowl for Dabi. He’s my son, my only child, and I want him to know who his father is. He would be better off with me. Delma is a terrible mother.”
Dabi, the couple’s child, had mixed feelings about his future.
“Both of them can be fun at times,” he said. “But both of them can be boring, too. Dad can be meaner than Mom, but he can also be nicer. Mom’s easier to talk to. I don’t know who I want to win. The best bowler, I suppose.”
Dabi, an academically gifted child, has been keeping the emotional pain of the break-up inside rather than letting it out, and he prefers to comment only on the bowling. He said he doesn’t enjoy the sport, even though he has tried it.
“I can’t stand the game,” he said. “All it is is rolling a stupid ball down a narrow little floor. It looks like a big fuss over nothing. I don’t see the point in it.”
The local bowling alley regulars see the contest as a toss-up. Both parents, they say, are good bowlers.
“Janako has a higher average, about 165,” said Macko Neltona, the owner of Neltona’s Lanes. “But he is not consistent. He can bowl a 120 and then one hour later bowl a 220. Delma is a steady, 150, 155 bowler, and she’s better under pressure. It could go either way.”
The judge set a spring date for the bowling match, giving each parent a few weeks to practice before the competition that will determine the structure of their family.