This journal entry from 1996 sure brought back memories. My older son is now a captain in the Army, and my younger son is a scientist on a research trip to Antarctica, and I am very glad I took the time to play games with my kids when they were young. If I had only known then how fast those years would go, I would have played even more!
From December 1996
This Christmas, my younger son, who is ten, asked for several board games, which we have been playing on our days off. When I take the time to sit with him at the table for a few minutes and play a game of Yahtzee or Mancala or Catch Phrase and stop worrying about the endless piles of clutter;
When I stop for a moment;
When I decide the dishes in the sink can wait;
When our older son, exasperrated, finally gives in to his insistent younger brother and sits at the table with the family to play guessing games;
When my husband and I give up trying for the time being to find some time for ourselves, to stop looking at the house and these children as just a phase to get through so we can finally be what we think we’d like to be: artists with no responsibility but to our muses;
When we can stop the endless chatter in our heads for a moment, the droning list of have-to’s, ought-to’s, and shoulds playing day and night like elevator music;
When I can choose to be there for my son and stop saying, “just a minute,” “after I do this one thing,” “I’m almost there”;
When I can shut my eyes to the piles of clutter on the counter;
When I can just stop and look at this child, who seems so small in many ways and yet will outgrow me over the next year;
And take the pair of dice in my hands;
Feel their cool sides, their solid weight, the way they knock together in my cupped hands;
When I can focus all my attention on wishing for a certain toss of the die, share my son’s excitement when he rolls to an inside straight, know how important it is to roll the right combination;
Important enough to call certain rolls fair or unfair.
Then I feel a deep satisfaction and a quiet joy, and I am grateful for my son, who does not need to be reminded to play.
While we play, I think about a lot of things. I realize with some surprise that I think real families are supposed to play games together, although I don’t have any memories of that ever happening in my childhood, so I’m not sure where that thought comes from. Certainly, my husband and I have not done much in the way of playing games with our own children, although we try from time to time, like this Christmas.
Games I remember from childhood include Chinese checkers, checkers, parcheesi, dominos, a box of 64 games like Fox and Hens, but I associate those with my brother, not with my parents. I remember playing card games when I got older, including a complicated game called something like Shanghai Rummy, which you played with two decks and a sequence of hands you had to play. (Was that a game someone made up during some war? Where did that name come from?) My mom and dad used to play chess from time to time. Then after my brother learned to play chess, he would challenge dad, and it became a kind of show-down for them. I vaguely remember Monopoly and Life. I can’t imagine my grandparents playing any kind of board or card games, but grandaddy played basketball and football growing up. My older son enjoys live-action role play and computer games but has never cared much for board or card games, except for Magic the Gathering, which he played for several years.
What is it about different kinds of games that makes one kind fun and another not so fun? What purpose do games play? Why do they seem so important?
Games I Used to Play
- jump rope
- Strut Miss Lucy
- Drop the Handkerchief
- Red Rover
- Red Light Green Light
- Chinese jump rope
- double dutch
- tiddly winks
- Chinese checkers
- tic tac toe
- Old Maid
- Go Fish
- Pay Day
- Mouse Trap
- Crazy 8s
- freeze tag
- The Price is Right
- Hi Ho Cherry Oh
- hide and seek
- 20 questions
- alphabet game
- kick ball
- duck duck goose