“Well, that’s just the way the ball bounces!” my five year old told his uncle when the sudden turn in the game guaranteed his uncle’s loss while uncle feigned dismay. His uncle snorted and rolled his eyes at me. I knew he wondered where that came from. He should have known. The kid’s father (uncle’s brother) used that phrase when our kids were losing in a game and proclaiming life wasn’t fair.
Dave has always played hard ball with our kids in game time – except for the times he “allows” a kid to win because he knows every child should get that achievement once in a while. Most times though, Dave made the game harder rather than easier for our kids. When it was time to play Memory, he didn’t line the cards up in neat rows. Oh no, he just tossed them on the table any which way. My chances of winning became slimmer because no longer could I remember the tricycle is on the third row, third in. Oh no, there were no rows. “Because,” he said, “life isn’t all made of straight, even rows and the sooner they learn that, the better.” The kids rose to the challenge and I hated it. Yet, I have to admit this strategy in game time was a great one.
I suppose we made a good team. The younger kids probably won more when they played with me and lost a lot when they played with Dave. What amazed me, even then, was that they’d choose their father to play with any day over me. They liked game time better with him than with me. Was it because they knew, when they finally did win a game, they won it fair and square?!
Win, Lose, or Draw
A few weeks ago, my great-niece wanted to play Memory with me. “And let’s play it like Uncle Dave did with his kids,” she said. So we tossed the cards across the table and played the game. She won.
Next we played Mancala. I won. You know what I noticed? She didn’t mind being the loser. I’m sure it helped that she’d stomped me in Memory. But the greatest reason is that, in her family, she doesn’t always get to win just because she’s the youngest (and really cute, I might add). That’s what game time should do for our kids.
Nobody, but nobody, always wins. No one always gets the raise or promotion he desires. Everybody has to give up choice vacation times or days off some time in his life. Sometimes the position we crave is offered to someone else and we have to decide if we are willing to take a different one. That’s life, and that’s what game time prepares us for if it’s done the right way.
Game time is not just a time for playing games. It’s a time for life-lessons about fairness, honesty, taking one for the team, and not always making the grade. Game time teaches kids the importance of trying harder (unless the adults in their lives always let them win). Playing games with our kids helps them navigate the choices in life when we model it for them. In addition to developing dexterity, mental stamina and cognition, game time helps prepare our kids for the real world out there called LIFE.
For more thoughts on the importance of games with our kids, click here.