Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly Column: Win/Win

The best part about after dinner playtime is that it’s Daddy’s domain. 
As he directs pillow fights and wrestling matches, I get my coveted alone time.  Although this usually only consists of cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry, it’s a bubble of inactivity from the day’s hands-on requirements, and I cherish it. 
Several nights ago, Daddy’s playtime was underway.  I was up to my elbows in dishwater, reveling in the joy that comes with completing an uninterrupted task, and smiling at the sweet sounds of laughter filling the house.  My husband had blessedly chosen a quiet game – Candy Land – and everyone was happy.
In fact, everyone was a little too happy.
Drying my hands, I peeked around the corner to see how this game could possibly be going so smoothly.  Normally, there are outbursts and disappointments involved with board games in our house, especially when they’re played by a four-year-old and a two-year-old.  Hearing none, I was skeptical; quietly hidden, I watched.
After a few turns, I saw my husband sneakily cutting the deck and placing a certain card on the top of the pile.  My preschooler would be the one to pick it up, and when she did – ‘Yay! Princess Frostine!  I get to move aaaalllll the way up here!’ – I understood what was going on. 
Daddy was cheating. 
He must have heard the gears of disapproval turning in my mind, because he looked up and caught my eye.  Busted.  He opened his mouth to defend himself, but no words came out.  He knew he’d been discovered, and – worse still – this wasn’t the first time.
I’ve tried for months to stress the importance of letting our daughters learn the true qualities of games.  That someone will win, and someone will not.  That it’s still fun, no matter what.  That taking turns is important.  That encouraging one another is better than cheating. 
What I’m worried about is that my preschooler will go play a game with her peers, and be crushed when she doesn’t win EVERY time.  Or that she’ll be absolutely impossible to play with because she’s mad that things aren’t going her way.  The only way I know how to encourage her being a good sport in the years to come is by modeling the truth of games at home, now. 
But her daddy sees the opposite side.  He sees that his little girl will soon be losing games in the real world, so he gives her a chance to win whenever possible.  For now, he wants to shelter her playful spirit. 
Which leaves me looking like the unfeeling dictator in this scenario.  And like any good dictator, I pressed my point. 
Soon, they began playing again ‘for real.’  The little ones pulled whatever card happened to be on top, without cheating.  One person scooted ahead, then another, with everyone laughing and teasing until there was finally a winner: my husband.  We held our breath to see how our preschooler would handle the upset.
“Baaah!” she cried, throwing her head back dramatically.  “But it’s my turn next, and I bet I’ll catch you!”  With another turn, she crossed the finish line to languish in King Kandy’s courtyard. 
I’d been prepared to highlight the celebratory aspect of being happy for the winner, whoever they were.  I was ready to encourage her, despite the fact that her father had finished first.  But it turns out that she’s already learning how to play games – and enjoy them – without needing to win.
Apparently her father and I have yet to learn the same lesson: we each claimed the winning credit for her politeness.


  1. I think you both get 100% of the credit. Talk about a win/win...


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?