Sunday, June 12, 2011

Is it too early to teach my kids that sometimes life blows and you just have to suck it up?

I give a customary warning whenever my kids and I break open a game of Survive. "This is a terrible, terrible game. Bad things will happen to you when you play this, so I don't want to hear any whinging, or crying, or anyone shouting 'That's not fair! Waaaahhhhhhhh!!!'. We are just playing a game to have fun. Does everybody understand?"

"Yes, daddy," they chorus absently as they pick out their meeples. As usual, they aren't heeding the full import of my warning. This was a cruel, cruel game, designed by the twisted mind of a deranged psychopath with an obviously traumatic childhood. As a parent who inflicts this game on his kids, I muse to myself, what does that make me?

By the first half of the game, the number of my surviving meeples is being rapidly diminished by my 6 year old daughter who takes particular delight in dumping her father's meeples into the sea, and my 4 year old son whose grasp of game strategy consists of doing whatever his sister tells him to do. My meeples are being eaten by sharks, hounded by whales, and swallowed whole by ravenous Sea Serpents no matter how desperately they try to swim or row to the safe islands. I guide them along hoping against hope that the luck in this merciless game would finally turn towards me.

And then, expectedly, it happens. A hungry Sea Serpent emerges next to one of my daughter's boats full of her meeples and tears into the fragile craft, devouring everything and everyone on board. Immediately, an enraged wail bursts from my daughter. "Why did you do THAT!?" I glance up at her and on her face, I see The Look.

Are you a parent? If so, you'd know the Look I'm talking about. It's the Look they get when their ice-cream drops out of their cone when they try to take the first bite. The Look they get when one of their siblings pushes past them to use the toilet first. The quivering lower lip, eyes welling up with tears, corners of her mouth dropping faster than one of daddy's meeples into the churning sea.

A full-on break-down was going to happen and internally, I braced for the crash landing and mentally prepared the 'You kids must be tired, so let's get to bed.' speech.

And then, unexpectedly, it happens. Taking a deep breath, my daughter brushes away her tears with both hands. Then she looks around and asks in a much calmer voice. "Whose turn is it?"

In the next turn, a boat-load of my helpless meeples is flung into the water by a rampaging whale guided by a 4 year old boy happily urged on by his sister. In my mind, I could hear the screams of flailing meeples as the black dorsal fins close in, but in my heart, I was brimming with pride, satisfied that whatever that had just happened was worth the wooden lives of countless daddy meeples in this game and all the games to come.

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