Playing Games With Children
The Game of Life.
Life has had countless metaphoric tags attached over the years. This morning, as I was walking through my house making a grocery list, I came across the games in our hall closet. A quick glance brought back a flood of memories, hours spent with my family playing games. Not just my kids but, our whole family. When I was in high school me and my brother would walk to our grandparent’s house and play card games with our grandmother. She knew all the card games, farkle, crazy 8’s, Rummy, ect. We would stay there until dark playing, talking and laughing.
Every time we get together as a family we end up around a table playing a game. Over the years I have realized that games are an important metaphor for life. Games teach us strategy, determination, how to win, how to lose, and how to have fun while you are playing.
Little children want to play games with their parents. Seemingly pointless games like go fish and checkers, teach children to take a loss and move on. Even a game like hungry hippo teaches a child to think about what they are doing. Games like Monopoly and chess teach kids to strategize, figure things out. Do you remember when you stopped playing checkers because the game always ended in a stalemate?
When the boys were young they would fight when they played a game together. They both knew it was better to be the winner, and being the loser was not fun! Four of us were playing the game “Sorry” one day. For those of you unfamiliar with Sorry or Aggravation, the point of the game is to get all of your pawns or marbled home safe before the other people playing accomplish the same task (the object of this game is a metaphor in itself).
Playing Sorry with small children is a catalyst for a fight because one player has the option to send another players pawn back to start. This creates a battle between players. Children who are not mature (and not expected to be) start to get upset when other players send their pawns back to start. This particular game in our house is full of chiding and humor as we send each other’s pawns back to start.
However, on this day a member of our family was not taking the game lightly and started to get very upset. Our youngest son was only seven, to him loosing was never fun. He was about to win the game when his pawn got sent back to start. As you can imagine he was not happy. He wanted to leave the game but, we talked him into staying. He did lose and was upset. It was then that I decided to interview him over his loss. I reached across the table and using my had as a microphone, said to him “That was a close game , you were in the lead for quite a while, tell me how you feel about such a tough loss”. It took him a second to realize I was interviewing him, he responded and laughed. For a while after that, the boys expected to be interviewed if they lost the game. I know what you are thinking; I taught them it was more fun to lose. But you’re wrong, I taught them that it was more fun to play and be a good sport than to whine when the game doesn’t go your way.
Winning is great but, in a majority of games there is only one winner and in life there are many players. Over the years of the boys playing sports they took hard losses and had great wins, always playing with a competitive spirit and an understanding that is was only a game. Most of us will lose more than we win, so the tough part will be picking ourselves up the next day and getting back in there.
As my kids have gotten older, our game closet has become more intellectual. We still play games, yet the kids have learned to enjoy the game rather than being concerned with who wins. Now the game is more about the time we spend together… which really is the greatest thing in life.