Not long before Christmas last year someone told me about the new, locally-invented “Grand Canyon” board game; they said it was “the perfect Christmas present.” I checked it out, and it was pretty cool; unfortunately, it still had no chance of ever becoming a Christmas present in my house, since an embargo forbidding the importation of new board games has been in place since late 2005. That’s when I first realized that, in place of the heretofore orderly pile of games my husband and I had accumulated together and separately during our childless years, what we now had instead was a few broken boxes, some miscellaneous game bits, and one single die.
Of course, this same fate had not befallen the “children’s” games; on the contrary, like the unkillable horror that it is, Candyland remained almost virtually intact. The same was true of that most obnoxious of games, Mousetrap–this despite it being one of those games that becomes practically unplayable the first time a single piece goes missing.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the other, more adult games. You name it: Clue, Scrabble, Sorry, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly–even the backgammon set had been pillaged. I would say that the games had been “decimated,” but for the fact that that would imply that a mere ten percent of the pieces had gone missing; judging from the few ones and fives that were left in the Monopoly game, it was clear that a more likely estimation was half. (Perhaps we should say that the games were “half-inated.”)
As I mentioned before, it was the discovery of this carnage back in 2005 that caused me to issue said ultimatum: either start taking care of these games or they will be the last ones you ever see coming into this house. Of course, as with most ultimatums, this one, too, was a great big flop. Not only did they not start taking better care of the games, the destruction actually picked up in pace: whereas before I might have found one or two wayward Trivial Pursuit wedges (usually as I walked barefoot to the bathroom in the middle of the night), now I started finding entire Trivial Pursuit pies scattered about. What was worse was my kids’ reaction: instead of feeling deprived by being forced to play with ever more incomplete sets, they instead seemed to thrive on the challenge–the more pieces they lost, the more determined they became to keep on playing.
And so we started having scenarios where, prior to starting a game, everyone had to agree on how many pieces of cat food it took before you could put a toothpaste cap on your property, or what to do when the dead bug you were using for a Sorry piece turned out to be not-so-dead after all. In fact, they actually seemed to enjoy the games better this way; they certainly played them more. It’s was if all they had ever needed was a little bit of an extra challenge, as if they were saying: anyone can play Scrabble, but how many people can play scrabble when there are only four vowels in the entire game–two of them the letter “u”?
The game situation has made me think that perhaps I should reconsider my entire parenting philosophy. Maybe, instead of buying them all those nice, shiny new school supplies I should just give them some dried up felt pens and a few pieces of scratch paper; imagine what homework effort that might inspire. And instead of giving them toy chests and bookshelves with which to keep their rooms neat, maybe they would do better with a few milk crates and some empty bread bags.
And, maybe, I’ll even start buying board games again. I think I’ll start with that Grand Canyon one–providing, of course, that they agree to sell me half.