Life: The Game

Life: The Game

What am I doing here?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.

post-coaster victory shotSee, 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:

  1. Make a deal: stick to it. ←Period
  2. 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!

Heck yeah! Brownie dinner.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.





  1. Avatar
    Neida May 29, 2014

    I would say that you have definitely won! Sounds like you’ve done a great job raising your daughter. Parents also have to be careful not to be swayed by peer pressure. I’ve seen parents give in to avoid a scene. It’s so much more important to teach your child valuable life lessons than to avoid strangers giving you the stink eye. The stink eye from strangers is pretty funny anyway.

  2. Avatar
    Stu May 29, 2014

    Thanks for the comment!

    It’s a gray area avoiding a scene. I’m not a big fan of the parents that let their kids wail away in the grocery store, but I’m not giving in just ’cause little Johnny wants a cookie. I figure if she’s not disturbing other people it was OK for me to look like the awful, horrible ruin-er of days. If she would have started wailing, we’d have left the park.



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