March 8, 2011

{When Children Stop Playing With Us}

A few weeks back when I posted a blog on a scrabble match with my daughter, I received quite a few emails from readers. Any email is a validation of the purpose of the book, touching one more person but of these two of the emails stood out and really made me think. I thank both readers for giving me permission to share their stories. 

A dad whose son will not golf with him
A dad in his fifties wrote to me about his son not playing golf with him anymore. Initially he was kinda baffled as his son loves golf, but he soon realized that when they were out playing golf (his son being a teenager) he used to celebrate too loudly and rubbed-in every time his son lost or even made a bad shot. This father was very sad in his email as he felt that he had not appreciated the time he had with his son. He felt he was acting like “an idiot” about silly wins which made him lose the big moments of golfing together with his son.

A daughter cheats in Monopoly
Another dad wrote about his ten year old daughter. He talked about how when his daughter was four and started playing card games, she always went through the deck to find the winning cards. At that point of time he and his wife thought it was cute. Over the years as they played many games the daughter continued to find “winning ways” and only recently, when the daughter has just turned ten, the parents were seriously uncomfortable seeing their daughter “cheat” while playing Monopoly.

As I started thinking about both these stories I realized that our children go through phases in life. One of these is when they just graduate from asking us to read to them and want us to play games with them. They may be small in size but their heart and spirit are big and they want to be taken for seriously. They also want to win and give parents a reason to be proud of them.

I realized that we plant seeds in our children’s life in these early years. If playing with us is fun, children continue to do so. If we are sore losers, our children will be the same.  On the other hand if we are too hard on them, and rob them of the fun of playing by pushing them too hard, they may take their first chance of walking away from the whole thing, forever. 

The golf story also hit home with me as I have a pink/purple golf club set sitting in one corner of the garage that has hardly been used. Rumors are that some dad was trying too hard to teach his daughter the etiquette of golf and in the process made the game a yawn to her. Every time I drive into the garage, the lonely club set standing in the corner is just a reminder of what life could have been.

Now about cheating, I do not have any way of figuring out the answer, even though I was once married to a shrink. I completely sympathize with the dad who, in the early years, thinks it is cute when the child takes short-cuts to win, as anything the child does is memorable. But over time are we making the child try too hard to win our approval? Are we defining that winning is everything and playing together is not the journey that one should focus on? I would love it if you would share your thoughts and ideas with me.
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