I cannot win.
The older one loves to play games. This has been a beacon of light for me as I too love to play games. I am the youngest of five. Growing up, there were always games. Atari games, board games, card games, outdoor games, and the like. I married a wonderful woman. A gorgeous, smart, out of my league beautiful woman…who doesn’t play games.
Imagine my absolute delight when my older one finally reached the age to comprehend the fun that lies in friendly competition. The art of strategy. The depth of problem solving. The thrill of victory. The suppressed game lover started to seep out of me. We started to get games and I started to get excited.
And then the truth finally came out.
In the past three months I have lost countless games against the older one. Candy land. The Scooby Doo game. Go Fish. Trouble. At one point I managed to lose putting together a puzzle.
The game: Candy Land. I was the plastic bead, he was the small horse (having lost all of the gingerbread figures pretty much immediately, we resorted to improvising). He was legitimately schooling me and I, half a board back, was legitimately pissed that I couldn’t pull a double colored card to save my bead’s life.
Then he pulled the cookie tree card.
For those of you who have never played this game, I am totally disappointed in you. There consists about 6 “character cards” which correspond to specific squares on the board. When and if you pull these cards you either advance to that square in sheer bliss or, as was the case here, go back to the square.
The cookie tree guy is basically at the starting square.
As my Son threw himself onto the board, my wife looked over at me. The sudden re-realization that he was a four-year-old poured through me. I watched him react to the news as one might expect a normal person to react if everything they worked for their entire life was suddenly taken away. Right before my eyes, the child became unhinged.
He passed blame to me firing accusations that I was somehow at fault and had made the card appear in the deck as a trap. He blamed the game as being defective and stupid. He vowed to never play again.
After walking away, cleaning up the cards strewn about the table, and consoling him as to how a game “works,” I was struck by the stark realization that in order to satisfy my own needs to play a game, he would most always have to win.
Thus began the great game deception. I have had to change my strategic thinking of how I can place a close second in just about everything. I have honed my skills in artfully stacking the decks to allow for him to get the miracle cards and somehow beat the odds in an upset win.
Along the way, he has started to pick up some of the cues that are there, and occasionally will even get suspicious, but the ultimate thrill of victory far overshadows the doubts that I see creep up in him. I have also been able to wield some power over him. I tell him I could choose to make a move that would send one of his pieces home, but I sparred him. At least he knows I have the capacity for mercy.
These fundamental changes, coupled with the typical special rules he imposes on me that I did not know exist, have created a whole new dynamic to our ritual. Just so long as I lose, there is peace in the house once more.
(Which in the end, makes me the winner.)