Feed on

Good Sport, Part II

Six months ago, as Simon began to play board games, I began to wonder where he’d fall on the Whitworth/Goldstein gamesmanship continuum.

To review, Goldsteins take game-playing to ridiculous extremes and often sap all the joy out of the enterprise. (Mom, notice that I said “Goldsteins” and not “Wolfsons.” I know exactly which side of the family this unattractive trait comes from and am not impugning you.) A Goldstein at four can be expected to quit, pout, throw a tantrum, or—if all else fails—cheat when on the losing side of a match-up.

Whitworths, thankfully, put the “game” in game-playing. Win or lose, it seems to be mostly all the same to them as long as the play is dramatic. They moan (mostly in jest) over losses. They gloat (also mostly in jest) over victory.

Which side of the divide does Simon find himself on? Mostly, mercifully, the Whitworth one. Having now played endless games of the Ice Cream Game, Hi Ho Cheerio, Candy Land, and Sequence, I have witnessed him rejoice at victory, for sure, but also laugh or faux moan at a set-back. He screams “You blocked me!” with nearly the same excitement as he screams “I blocked you!” I’ve heard him squeal “I’m not back in the game!” with the same zeal as “I’m back in the game!”

It’s lovely. But it has its limits, and the last two days have given me a clearer picture of what they are—and what mine are. Two nights ago, Simon accidentally picked up two cards when he was about four spaces away from Candy Land. This happens pretty often unless I stage the deck for him, as his fingers are not quite dexterous enough to pick just one card off the top. This apparent victory would have been his first after a string of three losses. (Like the new era Miami Heat. Ha!) In his little hands was a double-orange, which would have given him the win, and the gingerbread boy, which would have sent him all the way back to the beginning and assured his defeat. Simon looked up at me and stated in a near pleading tone:

“I’m not getting the gingerbread card. I’m going to Candy Land.”

As it was late and he had been such a good sport, I concurred:

“No honey. Your card is the double orange. You won! You get all the candy now. Hi five!”

Game over, we went to bed. Yesterday we played three games of Candy Land, and he whipped me every time. Including one game in which I, a single space from the promised land, drew the gingerbread boy myself. Then today, after a four-game losing streak, I was on the cusp of losing a fifth when Simon drew the gingerbread boy about three quarters of the way around the board. This time, he drew just the one card; there was no ambiguity:

“No,” he told me sullenly. “I’m not going all the way back. I’m going to put this card under the other card back on the pile.”

This time, I thought a lesson was in order. It wasn’t late, and he hadn’t just struggled through a series of losses.

“That’s not how the game works, Simon. You play the card you get. Sometimes you get to move ahead and win. And sometimes you have to move back. You just never know. You still might win this game. But win or lose, you have to play fair. And win or lose, you can still have fun. But either way, you have to play the card you draw.”

“No,” he answered flatly. “I’m not going to do that. I’m not going back.”

“Well then,” I answered equally flatly, “I’m not going to play with you. And neither will Daddy or Grandma. We all like to play, and we all like to win. But no one wins every time. So you can either move back, keep playing, and have fun with the game, or I will put it away and you won’t have any fun at all.”

This little speech was followed by a long silence. Simon stared at me, stared at the board, and stared pitifully at the little gingerbread boy card in front of him. I could see him really struggling to control his emotions. Then he silently moved his piece back to the gingerbread boy. I went on to win the game, and we both went on to play another game and have fun. At which point, regardless of the outcome, I felt we had scored a victory in the category of sportsmanship.

2 Responses to “Good Sport, Part II”

  1. Amanda says:

    Testing limits. You did a good job, Mom. (The less said about the Heat the better.)

  2. blg says:

    Good job, Jess! I am sure you were proud of Simon’s decision.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.