My family enjoys playing games. We play board games, sporting games, card games, video games, and even some homemade games like Let’s See Who Can Hide in the Bathroom and Eat Chocolate Alone So the Kids Don’t Ask for Some. Not to brag, but I actually think I’m getting pretty damn good at that one.
But it’s the truth, we love our games. At least once a week, you’ll find my family sitting around the dining room table playing some kind of board game. My children are 6 and 8, prime board game ages, and whenever we play, we follow the rules. I’m not the kind of parent to let my kids win or to bend the rules to ease the blow of defeat. Sorry, kids.
Above all though, my husband and I always take great pains to teach them that as long as you try your best, it’s okay to lose, but it’s never okay to cheat. Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you won’t. That’s life…
Usually I’m able to support their losses and wins, and do my best to model good sportsmanship whatever the results. When we play Clue, I’ll throw out a “You paid careful attention to the evidence! Well done!” When we play Jenga, I’ll hit them with the classic “That was a bold risk moving the corner block!” When we play Skipbo, I’ll offer a “Smart use of your discard pile, kiddo!” When we play the Hide and Eat Chocolate game, I usually won’t say anything… save for an occasional cough to cover the sound of the wrapper.
But there is one game that I sometimes just can’t seem to find the positivity for–the dreaded Game of Life.
A teacher making $100,000 right out of college?! Um, no. Collecting $20,000 from other players because it’s your pet’s birthday?! Who are we, the Hiltons? Inevitably, whenever we play Life, I morph from the mother able to find encouragement even in mistakes to the mother lecturing her children about how unrealistic each move we make is.
Sure it would be great to retire with millions in the bank, as even the losers of Life seem to do, but as I’ve experienced it, life is a totally different kind of game.
I want to see a card that says You put 2 children through daycare from infancy to preschool. Pay $150,000! Or You’re still paying off your own college loans, but it’s time to start saving for your children’s education. Move back 10 spaces!
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my life–and I’m willing to work hard for what our family has. I’m not waiting for the inheritance card to make some of my hardships disappear, and I don’t want my children to think that life works like that either. Yes, good fortune makes a difference, but more so than money, the true quality of one’s life comes from sources far less material.
Therein lies my biggest problem with The Game of Life. It equates success purely with wealth, and that message–that money is king–is one we see far too often in our society.
While my children say that the objective of The Game of Life is silly because there are so many things that matter more than money in life, they still love to play it. Right now, at this stage of the parenting game, I’m satisfied knowing that my kids are able to see beyond the temptation of wealth, a temptation that I still wrestle with myself sometimes.
It’s my hope that as my kids grow, they are able to remember some of the lessons we’ve learned through making our moves, accepting our losses, and celebrating our wins. And if they can get through the Game of Life with a smile on their face, I think that is a win in of itself.