When my daughter recently said to me, “Daddy, let’s play Candyland,” it brought back childhood memories of my family playing games. From board games to charades to football, we played it all. However, it wasn’t always a positive experience. In fact, sometimes it was downright ugly.
On the surface, it seemed like a great idea. A couple of hours of games would keep the kids from becoming bored and it was something the whole family could do together –- always a solid selling point.
If we decided on a board game, we’d excitedly spend a half an hour choosing the game then another half an hour listening to my father read the instructions. The excitement — and the tension — was building.
Then came the all-important roll of the dice to see who’d go first. Usually, this caused some trepidation but nothing out of the ordinary. The person who wound up going last usually announced impending defeat.
As the game wore on and clear winners and losers emerged, the teasing started and soon someone (as the youngest, that someone was usually me) would throw a tantrum resulting in game pieces thrown halfway across the room. A terrified family pet would be scared half out of its wits, winners accused of cheating, and the game would abruptly end. We had achieved the goal of family fun.
It didn’t end there. If we were on a weeklong family vacation, (surprise!) the entire scene would be re-enacted each day of the so-called ‘vacation.’ It always started as a great idea then quickly disintegrated into a brawl. The only thing that changed was the game. If the weather were nice, we’d move outdoors, for football or soccer, which just provided us with more fighting room. However, technically it was time spent together doing a family activity -– fighting.
I certainly don’t blame my parents, myself, or my brother or sisters. (Why should I be accountable for my actions?) I blame Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley and all the game makers who invented these games designed for family fun. Couldn’t they envision that when you bring competition, sibling rivalry, and adolescence together for more than 30 seconds, all hell would break loose?
Additionally, someone always has to lose. Whoever said that cheesy expression “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game” apparently doesn’t know me. I lose at just about everything (and hate it) and, in fact, recently lost at checkers to my nine-year-old niece. I begged her for a rematch and promptly lost again. I did what any grown man would do and then challenged my six-year-old nephew -– an easier mark. The outcome of that match is still under dispute, though I’ve been told I’m the only one disputing it.
If the Fox network were smart, they’d start a show: A Night of Family Fights. Of course, they’d make millions, I’d be credited with nothing and would chalk up yet another personal loss. However, this isn’t about me. This is about the bad marriage of family and games.
“Maybe, it’s just your family,” my wife suggested. She’s right, who says the next generation has to be like us? However, when my daughter said, “Christopher can’t play Candyland with us,” and pushed my son, I had my answer.
So the next time someone suggests playing Monopoly or touch football with your family, cut right to the chase and break out the boxing gloves and headgear.
Chances are that’s how it’ll end up anyway.