It wasn’t supposed to end this way. In the first round, I had purchased a number of key properties, including Boardwalk. A few more rounds and I owned 3 railroads, both Get Out of Jail Free cards, and both utilities. A few more rounds after that, I added Park Place and completed 2 more sets. With the exception of the community chest and one railroad, I owned the entire left side of the board. I was rolling in dough with 15 properties to my name, while Little Guy had a mere 6 and a small wad of cash, mostly pink and white. I could hear the frustration in his voice, the half-hearted attempt at lightheartedness, and my Mama Mode kicked in. In the end, it was my fatal flaw. I didn’t purchase the red property he needed to complete his set. “Thanks Mom”, he sighed. It had seemed so genuine.
And then he went in for the kill.
Every parent hopes their kids gain some wisdom from our patient explanations (while our blood pressure secretly skyrockets), and our oft long-winded anecdotal life lessons. We teach them to play fair, take turns, and consider the other person. But we also don’t want them to be doormats. We want them to learn to stand up for themselves, and to participate in healthy competition. Winning and losing builds character. Apparently somewhere along the way, Little Guy’s character learned to like winning.
There was nothing particularly untoward in his behaviour, save a few smart-alecky remarks as his eyes sparkled and he licked his lips with glee…or perhaps I was just imagining that. But there were things he did that I hope he wouldn’t do in real life. He took scary chances. We all play it too safe sometimes and we regret not taking a risk (another game I lost this week). But as soon as he obtained cash, he invested it in houses and hotels. He held nothing back, and at least once, went into debt. To me – Mrs. I-own-the-best-properties! And I let him because, well…Mama mode! Even after he bought the property I needed to finish a set and yes, I reminded him how I had been gracious in not buying the property he needed. He actually took delight in exploiting my grand gesture. Which makes me start to wonder what did he learn from me…?
The issue really isn’t that he built a row of hotels on the property I graciously didn’t buy and he bankrupted me, while I did the responsible things like not going to jail, and modestly investing in and improving those lots with affordable housing and making sure I had money to cover my debts. It’s an issue, but not the central one. (I lost everything!)
The issue is this – When did my kids get better at everything than me (leaving me feeling like a washed up loser who is ready to sit in a senior centre and weave baskets while singing Kum Ba Ya)?
I have come to expect that they will excel at activities that require strength and endurance, like cartwheels or running long distances without losing their breath and quite possibly, their lunch. I can almost accept that their eye-hand coordination means they will excel at first person video games, or they can catch a ball without looking like a total spazz…while missing it. Of course that’s going to happen. But I have unknowingly believed that my 45 years of life experience would garner some respect and some advantage in, let’s say, intellectual aspirations. Managing money? Glory be, yes! I’ve had to balance a cheque book, pay student loans, refinance a mortgage, and a bunch of other incredibly boring adulting stuff involving math and coin.
I was mistaken. Horribly mistaken.
Still, my Mama Mode kicked in and I made a decision, one that ended in my tears, instead of Little Guy’s tears. My hope has always been that my boys would grow into caring, confident, independent men, and I see their strength and drive, and ability to do more than one push-up at a time, as something to celebrate, even as I start to tune my vocal cords for kum ba ya. So while I may have lost at Monopoly this week (and Risk), in a frustrating and catastrophic manner, maybe I haven’t really lost at all.
Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands. – Anne Frank