Dear Savvy Sister: Let’s not play (board) games

2011-12-08_12-36-42_526Dear Savvy Sister,
I adore my kids and would readily step in front of a speeding train or a government bureaucrat to save their lives. I do everything I can to enrich their brains and broaden their smiles. Except for my one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad secret – I hate playing kids’ games. All of them, including make-believe with toys. Is it ok to leave most of that to the nanny except for oh, maybe one hand of Uno per week?
And please reply nicely, not snarkily. You’ll notice I sent this to the Savvy Sister, not the Sappy one.



Dear Buzzkill,

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. You have outed me. Yes, it’s true. I deliver most of my sage wisdom with dollops of snark and occasional swirls of sap. But should people seeking free advice from a blogger sans credentials really be so particular? I think not.

Regarding your dilemma:  When I was a child, I played the game Sorry! with my parents a couple of times after it became popularized by a Carol Burnett Show skit. Later, as a teenager, we played Thumper, a drinking game involving sitting in a circle and remembering individual made-up hand signals. It’s usually played while drinking beer, but with my parents and their friends we used a nice chilled Pouilly-Fuisse. Good times!

Lots of parents mandate weekly Family Game Nights. Awesome! Inspirational! But listen, I prefer not to waste my remaining brain cells trying to get a green gingerbread man over Gumdrop Mountain (Candyland) or racing to catch polyester butterflies floating out of a hippopotamus’ elongated snout (Elefun). Holy Hasbro! Let’s just roll quarters off our noses and be done with it!

There’s no doubt that parents who play with their children are enriching their families. But playing can take many forms. Making cookies together is “playing,” in my book. Gardening together. Tossing balls to the dog. Drawing pictures. Watching a movie. How about this? Invent a game in which you each cut pictures out of a magazine and paste them into an artful collage. That way, if you choose the right magazine, you’re learning about Kim Kardashian getting jiggy with Kanye WHILE simultaneously playing games with your child. Genius! Or this: sometimes I play Hair Salon with my daughter. I sit in a chair, she brushes my hair and rubs lotion on my hands while I watch reruns of The Daily Show. #multitasking!

Parenting is hard enough without the imposition of artificial job requirements. Do you need to spend time with your children? Absolutely. Does it matter whether you’re playing Go Fish or interpreting cloud shapes? Not. One. Bit.

If your children adore board games, teach them to play with each other, or yes, by all means, make the nanny do it. Also, tell her to teach them how to floss. That’s a godawful task.

That Thumper game, though? It really is kind of fun. But only when you’re, you know, buzzed.


the Savvy Sister

Question for the Savvy Sister? Bring it, babe. Write to me here: Confidentiality guaranteed.



8 responses to Dear Savvy Sister: Let’s not play (board) games

  1. Gale says:

    My mother used to torment me with games I hated to play. Uno, Scrabble. God that was awful. Even now, in her golden years, she wants to play those stupid games. Once a year I play rummy with her. I make sure to kick her ass so she doesn’t ask again for at least six months. Just saying, sometimes it’s the kid that hates the game. Interpreting cloud shapes requires a horizontal position, I’m all for that one.

    • tricia says:

      Excellent point, Gale! I still don’t know how to play rummy, anyway.

  2. Valle says:

    When i was a kid my parents NEVER played board games with us! We played with each other. And we turned out okay. Really. Plus, I still love and admire my mother.

  3. Marc says:

    As a child our family game was MONOPOLY. It taught me a lot about fair negotiation (I had to continue living with those people). The skills I built during those games continue to help me today.

    As an adult, I admit to stacking the deck and manipulating the cards to ensure a quick child victory in CANDY LAND. Those skills help as well!

  4. Kathleen says:

    My mom used to like to stay up late, so she and I would do jigsaw puzzles together – big ones, like 1000 piece. She never played board games with me. Doing puzzles with her was fun and I have great memories of that.

  5. Thomas Booker says:

    So I bought a couple of packages of army men for my grandson. I was hoping to relive the days of mass pitch battles I used to enact through the plastic soldier figurines.

    He invited me to play with the toy soldiers. I prepared an amphibious assault with the soldiers and air support he allowed me to have. He retained the majority of armor, and air.

    We engaged.

    If I managed to destroy one of his tanks, he would later find a way to “fix” it. If one of my air support elements were shot down, his were always available even after being hit during engagements.

    My rifle men could never succeed in killing off his infantry. I had to resort to suicide attacks, and fanatic all out charges.

    In the end, he had enough infantry left to declare victory.

    I do not want to play with him and the army men I gave him ever again.

    War is Hell. Especially against a six-year-old. Boy. Who does not understand losing.

    • tricia says:

      Although, honestly, it sounds like he won. Smart boy.

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