We play a lot of games as a family. One of the favorites right now is Candy Land. Littles loses interest pretty quickly. Bigs, on the other hand, is extremely competitive and always wants to win. He comes by this trait honestly.
If you haven’t played Candy Land recently, it has cards with colors (single or double) on them and then special candy cards that move you to a specific matching candy spot on the board. There are also a couple of short cuts on the board if you fall on the right spot. There is also a version that has a spinner, but I’ve never played that one.
Bigs always wants to win. Sometimes he cheats to get further ahead. He comes by that honestly too… ahem. My parents used to play a game, “The Enchanted Forest”, with me when I was a young girl. I had an uncanny knack for winning and being “lucky.” It’s hard to exactly remember, but it may have been years before my mom realized that I was cheating. Secretly setting up the game where all the picture pieces would be placed in the same exact spot each game, giving me a serious competitive advantage even if I was only seven.
Cheating isn’t really that fun, because you get to win, but there is little suspense. We don’t allow it (at least knowingly.) Given my disdain for surprises, knowing the outcome of something is comforting, but it ultimately defeats the purpose of playing a game.
There are times when losing comes with devastation for Bigs. Dramatic crying and writhing in pain of defeat. It’s too much. My husband deals with this far better than my usual folding up of the board and sticking it in the box. He gently explains that we don’t always get to win. There will be times when no matter how hard we have practiced and worked that we still won’t be victorious in our quest. Then he talks about how the professional athletes he works with don’t cry or pout in the locker room after a loss. This usually devolves into Bigs questioning player by player whether they have ever cried after losing.
What might be worse than losing, is the being so close to the win and drawing a pesky candy card that moves you backwards. It is far worse than just losing a turn where you know when you will get your next chance to proceed forward again. The funny thing about those candy cards is that they can have the opposite effect and move you very close to winning as well. My sweet sensitive boy often has a quivering lip, which is the first sign that the card he holds is one of disappointment. Sometimes tears follow and he can often use a hug after being told that he really does need to move back.
One could criticize me for not cutting him some slack. He is only five years-old. As I see it, these are small set backs that help us learn how to cope with the big ones we will face later in life. One of my mantras of motherhood is “Bigger kids. Bigger problems.” I like to work on the little stuff with my little kids. Hopefully (fingers crossed) it helps them find their resiliency and practice. I have to remind myself of my husbands words, “No matter how hard we have practiced… we still won’t always be victorious in our quest.”