Sunday, September 24, 2006

Candyland, and Other Parental Torture Devices

Those of you who are parents know what I'm talking about when I say that I want to send the person or persons who invented Candyland to one of Saddam Hussein's old prisons. It seems like the more inane the game, the more children like it and want to play it again and again and again. Candyland is one of the #1 offenders.

Now don't get me wrong-- as an educator, I understand the benefits of children playing even the most excruciatingly boring (to an adult) games. Children learn tons of things through games-- how to count, "consecutiveness"-- even the beginnings of addition and subtraction. I have seen the results of this NOT happening-- kids who grew up without what most of us take for granted. I remember my first year as a teacher 15 years ago, working as a sub in Cabrini-Green. One memory that stands out is trying to teach a kindergartener to count to five. He hadn't the foggiest notion of the idea of one thing following another-- "consecutiveness" as I call it. My child went to kindergarten able to count to 100, knew his alphabet, shapes, colors and about a thousand other things. A lot of it had to do with playing games.

But to play a half hour of Candyland, or its evil cousin Chutes and Ladders was parent hell. The game was terrifyingly simple. Yet three and four year olds find it fascinating. My son would have played it like a 24 hour Las Vegas poker marathon if he could have found an adult who would not rather have had dental work done than played that game for an hour.

So I guess it stands as a tribute to our dedication as parents that we keep playing these games. And besides, the games get more interesting. Oh, and longer, too. Sigh.

My son is 12 now, and has passed through Crazy 8's, checkers, chess, Stratego and now is in his Yahtzee/ Monopoly/ Risk phase. Having grown up in a family with two brothers who were near my age (1 and 2 years younger) and lots of friends my age, we could always get a Monopoly game going. I loved Monopoly. As a teenager I loved Yahtzee, and Risk, but back then I wasn't 45 and working two jobs. Three hours of Monopoly is like sitting through an Ingmar Bergman Film Festival.

My son was, until my marriage last year, an only child. For some reason, his mother, my ex-girlfriend, has never, ever played board games with him. Therefore, when he is at my house, he is downright ravenous to play board games. I have, until this year, borne the sole brunt of Candyland. I alone have known the heartbreak of being near the end of the game-- one of us about to win, either one of us, I didn't care-- only to have the one who was nearing the finish line draw "Princess Lolly" and go skidding back to the beginning. I alone bore the brunt, except when we were visiting my parents, of Crazy 8's, checkers and the others.

At least I like the games we play now. But I sometimes think of the time I've spent playing board games as penance for not putting up with his mother for a while longer and having another child or two (she was not a fun person to live with). With my marriage last year, there are two other people to play board games with. I that think my son is as greatful for his stepsister as I am for providing him a sibling and, nearly as importantly, someone to play the Ninendo Wheel of Fortune with.

This summer, I taught my son to play Blackjack. He not only picked it up instantly, he quickly got very good at it. It was quite a kick to see him play against my father, who is also very good at it (and had taught me to play around the time I was 12). Maybe this time the result of my teaching him a game will be a retirement plan rather than torture.


dirty said...

I buy the games that I enjoyed as a kids to play with my kids but it turns out that they are only fun if you are a "Mouse Trap" is nothing but a big pain in the ass instead of kick ass fun...

Flannery Alden said...

You think Chutes and Ladders is bad...try playing Dora the Explorer Chutes and Ladders. ::shiver::

My husband and I are gamers from way back. We still play Monopoly, Risk and Axis and Allies. You might give the card game: Milles Bournes a whirl. It's a fun game based on a car race; you get many chances to try to stick it to your opponent.

kim said...

I hate games.

I will play Apples to Apples with our kids, and I actually enjoy it. But as a rule, I agree with Brian. I will add to the list my most hated game, "Hi-Ho Cherry-O"

Grant Miller said...

I highly recommend Hullabaloo. I find Hi Ho Cheerio much more pleasant than Candyland.

Johnny Yen said...

I remember Mousetrap being a constant source of life-shattering disappointment in my childhood; there was always a piece missing. I don't remember ever playing an actual game of it, as a consequence.

When I was a kid, the game everybody wanted to play at our house was "Feely-Meely." It was a game in which there was a box with handholes, and a bunch of objects in it. You would draw a card and had to find, by touch alone, the object on the card. Friends who came to our house would beg to play it; my brothers and I had bored of it quickly.