You know the mythical character of the unicorn doesn’t really exist because no one has ever seen one. Well, a new myth has arisen in the modern family, brought to us from the Parker Bros. game company. It’s family game night. In the commercial I’ve seen many times during the last few weeks, we see a perfect family — mom, dad, son, daughter– playing Monopoly. Okay, so right there we have a problem because how many families fit that picture? We know now that families come in all shapes, sizes, and genders, so the mom, dad and 2.5 mixed gender kid thing is really not an accurate depiction. But, that’s the least of my issues with this idea.
It’s not just that they are all gathered, seemingly on an average week night, to play the world’s longest and possibly most boring game. It’s not just that the kids aren’t complaining about having to play this antique version of fun. (Don’t get me wrong, I like board games, I like word games, and there were times when I could actually cajole the girls into playing them with me, especially when they were little.) It’s not just that there’s no visible electronics in this picture and how realistic is that? No, the real problem with this scenario is that the “older” sis, seeing that her adorable little brother is losing and about to move to the poor house, GIVES him her hotel! Not a house, mind you, but her HOTEL! Now, I have very nice girls (note name of blog) but never in a million years would one of them help her sister to win a game that she was also playing. And, although that might be cute, I’m not even sure I’d want that to happen.
Ah, competition. I’m normally against it (I’m an ex hippie and that’s against our religion, I believe.) But here’s the thing. Shouldn’t our kids learn that:
a. It’s just a game and win or lose, it could be fun just playing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and both are valuable.
b. You can beat your sister at Monopoly and that doesn’t mean you don’t love her.
c. Sometimes it’s okay to take care of yourself before you take care of others. In Monopoly, as in life, sometimes you do have to look out for Number 1 and it doesn’t make you a selfish SoB, it just makes you someone who takes care of business. It’s a balance; sometimes you put others first, sometimes you put yourself first.
The family we see on TV is ridiculous, playing that nice, civil game. In reality, game boards are dumped, tempers flare, people get cranky and cry, no one likes to lose, and often cheating rears its ugly head. And, that was just in my home.
Don’t get me wrong. My girls have all grown up to be loving and giving human beings. They care about the world and have been known to be more than generous and charitable. Tamra volunteered her time working in an orphanage in Chile a few years ago, Alexis, who is working hard and saving for a home, just contributed very generously to the Haiti relief effort, and Shira who doesn’t even have a real job just donated a lot of money to Haiti as well. (And it was her money! She didn’t even charge it to our credit card!) Plus, she went to New Orleans with Ned a few years back to work on Katrina rehab. So, our girls grew up fully knowing the meaning of generosity, compassion, and giving. But, when board games were played in their youth, those three qualities weren’t quite so evident.
No wonder parents constantly question their parenting skills. If in your home, reality sets in, but on TV, we see these images of the little girl GIVING her little brother her hotel (as opposed to hitting him over the head with the game board and throwing the hotel into his face) how would we not feel like failures in comparison?
So, I’m here to say, do play board games with your kids. I even love the idea of Family Game Night, as long as your expectations are based in reality and not in delusion. Parents, don’t be fooled by the Family Game Night currently dominating the airwaves. It’s a myth. It’s no more likely to happen in your home than a unicorn is likely to be munching on the Hosta plants in your backyard. Your kids will play games, they will cheat, they will cry, they will win and they will lose. They may not even have much fun. But, they’ll still grow up just fine.
I take offense to the notion that Monopoly is boring, especially for a kid. The strategy isn’t difficult – buy everything you land on and build right away. But here’s my take on this whole game thing. A little competition is fine and it is a much more important lesson to learn to lose than to learn to win. Just try your best, win at all costs but don’t cheat (that’s for one of the girls who shall remain nameless and we all know who it is). When I lose my ears start to burn and my heart races. I couldn’t believe how my adrenalin was flowing during a game of charades this New Year’s Eve. I think we kicked a little butt. Yet even with this competitive spirit most of life’s competitions will probably result in a loss. Only one person can be the smartest in the class and that’s not even so great unless you can do it without being a nerd or geek. There’s only one class president, one star quarterback, one homecoming queen, one star of the show (or maybe two or three). There is only one class clown and I couldn’t believe I wasn’t it. But my point is that we need to learn that there are many disappointments in life and that is just fine.
Our kids have taken some lumps just like everyone else. Endless job interviews, hurtful break ups, failed sorority rushes and tons more. Each time they cry, or scream, or curse (if I’m not around) and they manage to get back up and continue the good fight. I don’t know if we did anything to teach them how or why they need to deal keep moving forward. How do you kids do it? What’s your secret? It’s time to spill the beans.
I think everyone knows the way I deal with rejection is by crying. I get the pain out and then I feel better. I also curse (when Dad’s not there). I use the f-word a lot, it makes me feel better. I continue the good fight because I think my parents always modeled that for me. Life was not without it’s ups and downs. My parents opened businesses I”m sure they never dreamed of opening. We all know they didn’t know what they were doing and I’m pretty sure they still don’t but they are always persevering. We tease my mother quite a bit for always being so positive and happy but it’s a great attitude and I”m pretty sure whoever wrote that book the secret probably based it on my mother. I definitely have had some ups and downs in my life. There were a lot of awards I didn’t win, boys I didn’t date and big plays I never made. Those experiences brought me where I am today and helped me learn that the world doesn’t crumble around you if you’re not perfect or don’t get what you want. I think parents today want to protect their children from that but it can’t last forever. I think it’s a better life lesson to teach them how to cope with their disappointment. The world does not end if you’re not the best at something. Teach them ways to cope with their anger. You can even tell them they can use the f-word, just tell them to say it quietly and definitely not around my father.
First of all, Tamra cheats.
No one likes to lose, that’s for sure. Every time I go on yet another job interview and I don’t immediately get hired, I want to give up. I deal with all this rejection by crying at first, then playing really loud angry girl music, then when I calm down, I bake cupcakes. Somewhere around interview 15, I started to think I should probably start looking into a new career. But then I remember how much I really love teaching, and I know that when I finally get a job that’s permanent, I will appreciate it more than anyone. When I was hired to teach middle school in Philadelphia, I was so excited to have my own classroom, even in the toughest of educational settings. I was so excited, because I felt like I’d earned a job on my own merit. I didn’t get hired because my aunt works in the district or my sister’s friend’s boyfriend’s dad is the superintendent. I know that when I finally get there, it will be because I really deserve it.
As I type this, the family game night commercial is playing in the background. The tag line is something about creating family moments. Our family has moments all the time, without board games (I’ve never been a big fan of board games). For birthdays, holidays, and many random Sundays the five of us, or 6 of us when it’s not tax season, get together and talk. We all sit in our brightly colored recliners in mom and dad’s living room and we talk about anything; school, politics, Alexis’ wedding, Alexis’ house, my lack of job, Tamra’s date to Alexis’ wedding… I don’t know many families that do that as often as we do. We don’t need Monopoly or Boggle to have moments.