Life: The Game
Things have gotten a bit strange. I didn’t expect eighteen to be a big deal. It’s just a number, really. But, it feels like a division.
Now, I’ve found myself taking a look at my life. Remember the game, Life? You went to college or went to work. You arbitrarily landed on a space, picked a card, and got a baby. It doesn’t exactly work that way, huh?
Well, actually, that isn’t too far off, really.
At least, it isn’t for me.
But, there was some end to the classic board game. You “won” the game of life… at the end… or didn’t.
As a parent, is there a way to “win” or “lose” with our kids? We tell our kids that as long as they do their best, they win, but do we believe that for ourselves? More importantly, how do we define “our best” to adequately cover parenting?
The Spinnie Ride
I’ve spent the years tracking down projects, harping on cleaning up, punishing for not following the rules. I’ve been doing my best to beat morals and lessons and “right things to do” into her – sometimes I wish I could have done it physically, too. Still, there’s been a lot of times, particularly lately, where I’m truly concerned that she’s just going to go ka-flop when she gets out on her own.
Even though, I’m really pretty sure I kinda taught her mostly a little bit of the right stuff.
Do all parents come to this crossroads where we begin to question what a good job is, as parents? I’m certainly at a point where I wonder if I did enough… or did it right… or could have done better.
OK, I’ll admit, I’ve been pretty strict at points. I’ve actually done some parenting that doesn’t show up in “Best Parenting Tips” books. I’m certain I’ve been stripped of the Father of the Year award a few times, too – totally unfairly, by the way.
See, I remember one time, we were at an amusement park. She wanted to go on one of those spinnie rides. I hate those spinnie rides… but I loved my daughter. So, I made her a deal: I’ll go on the spinnie ride with you – you go on the loop roller coaster with me (which she was deathly afraid of).
We went on the spinnie ride.
…and after my stomach stopped yelling at me – I started heading towards the “Lazer”… in all of its double-looped glory! To this, my precious seven-year-old says “Umm… I changed my mind. I don’t want to go on the roller coaster.”
Now, here’s the parenting challenge – and be honest: What do you do? … or better, what did you do? I think we know where this is going, right?
I sat down on the closest bench, looked her in the eyes, and said, “You don’t get to change your mind. I know you don’t want to go on the roller coaster, but you made a deal.” She quietly sat beside me.
After a few minutes she asked, “What are we going to do next?”
I responded, “We’re going to sit here until you’re ready to go on the roller coaster.”
… and the tears started. Yep, in the amusement park, my daughter is crying… and I’m just sitting there. But don’t worry, I had a water. I was OK.
For the next hour and a half. Uh-huh: one hour and thirty minutes, we went between sobbing, silence, and attempts to do “something else.” Passers-by giving me the stink eye while I did my best to hide laughter. She was being ridiculous here, right?
Eventually, she caved. We went on the roller coaster – both loops! And she loved it! For the next six years, we made a beeline for the craziest, coolest roller coasters whenever we went to an amusement park.
Maybe I could have gradually worked her into the loop coasters, but I do know – for certain – that she learned two valuable lessons:
- Make a deal: stick to it. ←Period
- Try things before deciding you don’t like something.
No matter how my parenting is seen by passers-by, I did teach my daughter good lessons.
More Than Meets the Eye
Now, with her as a teen, she doesn’t exactly take to my shenanigans as well, so when I left her for three days by herself, she said, “I can take care of myself, Dad. Really.”
Of course, I didn’t buy it. I was expecting to come home to the typical mess in the house. I didn’t think she’d destroy it. I didn’t even think she’d have a party. But, I was not at all expecting what I found:
The house was better than I had left it. Yeah… she cleaned up without being asked and without anyone else there! She also took care of a couple “to-dos” I’ve been bugging her about with regard to college. She didn’t starve or nothing!
So, huh, I mean, I guess she can take care of herself. She just doesn’t when I’m there. Maybe part of it was to try and prove something to me, but she did do exactly what she said she would.
Pride on the back stretch
Truth be told, I couldn’t be more proud of her. Despite the daily annoyances, she’s got a pretty good head on her shoulders. I think, maybe… just maybe… she’s not gonna starve on her own.
And if we can get our kids to that point, then we totally win the game of Life.
I know I feel like I’ve won.
Now, you can follow my shenanigans on Twitter.