There are many reasons why people have children. I am almost certain that adding a playmate into your life is not anywhere close to the top of the list. That is definitely not why I became a parent or ever wanted to be a parent. However, it sure can be a nice perk of the job.
Hannah turned 7 a few weeks ago. And today, just like on every other day, I find myself in awe of the wonderful person that she is and she is becoming. While there are so many things that she is becoming and many of them are more important than this, I can’t help thinking about how tremendous it is that she loves to play games. Not to mention that she is pretty good at them.
Playing games has always been an important part of my life and my family. From learning to play Hi Ho Cherry O, Chutes and Ladders and Checkers and continuing on to trying to accomplish world domination with a wooden block army in Risk, our family has played games. Of all the things I missed about being apart from my brothers and parents, playing games is the thing I probably miss the most.
It’s not just the playing of the games itself, although it is fun to compete and talk trash. So much more of it is about reliving memories, telling stories or rehashing the same jokes we always tell. Without being too melodramatic, I ask credit games with helping me to be the person I am. Playing fair, working together, being a good winner and a good loser, these are just a few of the important life lessons that my parents passed on to me through playing games. It doesn’t hurt that games are also a great way to challenge the brain.
So for all of these reasons and so many more, once Hannah started to be able to sit still for awhile and began to understand taking turns and following rules, it became time to introduce games. I first remember trying to play CandyLand with her (Winnie the Pooh version, of course) a few years ago and it did not go nearly as well as hoped. In retrospect, she probably wasn’t ready.
But since that time, she has really flourished as a game player. This past year has been especially rewarding as she has really come into her own as a game player. CandyLand is just a tiny speck in the rear view mirror. Chutes and Ladders? Boring. In the blink of an eye, Hannah has fast forwarded to strategy games such as Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan not mention card games like Uno. We all recognize that she is wise beyond her years in playing these games and she wears it as a badge of honor when someone makes mention that “You know, these games are really for kids 8 and above.”
It is such a thrill to not only watch her grow up through games but also to see her mature and stretch as a person. I have been extremely impressed at how much of a better winner and loser she has become over this past year. When the year started, I remember having serious conversations with myself of whether or not I should let Hannah win, lest she crumple into an inconsolable puddle. It was a much tougher question than I ever imagined it would be. Before becoming a parent, I steadfastly stuck to the thought that I would never let my kids win at anything. It would build character and it would also make it that much more of an accomplishment on the day they finally beat me at something for real.
In previous years, when the moment of truth came, I may have stacked a deck or two of Candy Land cards, palming a card here and slipping in a bad card for myself there. But this year, there has never been any thought of that. She is a real game player now and not giving my best would be an insult to her developing skills. And while she hasn’t won one of the big games yet, she has certainly come close. It is definitely not a given that she will come in last and there is no shame in coming in behind her in any game.
Especially not Guess Who, at which Hannah has quickly become a master. When we play best out of 5, it is a miracle if I can avoid the sweep. Her deductive powers that cause her to quickly narrow down the choices in such an efficient manner are astounding. I am really not sure how she does it. I am sure it is only a matter of time before this starts carrying over to other games as well.
Happy 7th birthday to my amazing game player, Hannah, who is just scratching the surface of her newly found game playing abilities. I look forward to the many stories, memories and jokes that we are going to build up over the coming years and the new games that we will discover. But I think I am going to hold off on Risk for a little while longer. I don’t think I can take being consistently destroyed by yet another McKenna’s army of wooden cubes.