11/06/2006

Losing and Winning

When I separated from my now ex-husband, my biggest fear was that I'd lose my boys-that they'd quickly see the grass was greener on his side and leave me for the better pastures. After all, the ex'd moved into a Disneyland-style apartment complex and he made much more money than I did. It was all I could see- the glitter and the money.

Friends said, "Those boys love you! They won't leave you!"

But what match is my love to the allure of new toys and a Par 3 golf course? They were only little boys...kids like stuff.

I couldn't see it then.

All the reassurance in the world wouldn't convince me.

When a friend brought over a board game and announced we were all going to play, I felt like I was slowly being suffocated. A board game up against Disneyworld? "Surely you jest," I told him. "It'll never work."

The game was Heroquest, a precursor to Dungeons and Dragons. Each of us was assigned a role. I was the Elf. The oldest boy was the Wizard (he likes control.) And the youngest was the Barbarian as well as the Dwarf. Scott played the role of Zargon, our enemy, the Evil Sorcerer and controller of the game.

The four of us were to do battle with the evil forces of Zargon in order to save the empire. We had to travel past goblins, orcs and warriors on our way to finding a hidden relic needed for the empire's salvation...or something like that. At every step, Zargon would visit various challenges upon us.

The two Unnamed Ones and I lost the first game within eight moves.

Scott smiled, every bit Zargon. "I told you, you have to learn to function as a team."

In our competitive and customary thirst for individual victory, we'd set ourselves up for defeat by not working together.

That Scott was a pretty bright fellow.

That day we became the team we are now, a loving, unstoppable force. It was the beginning of a beautiful love affair...

Not with Scott...with boardgames and not just any boardgames, either, we wanted the new, the unusual, the un-boring...In short, anything other than Monopoly or Scrabble.

It didn't cost a lot of money. It didn't involve air fare or golf clubs or swimming pool memberships...but it did involve time and in that time we laughed and deepened our respect for and understanding of each other.

Okay. Not completely. You can't change genetics. We are totally competitive and, as you probably know, live to whoop up on each other.

One day a few years ago the ex arrived by to pick up the boys while they were in the midst of a Scrabble game with my dad. I was in the kitchen but I could hear everything.

"Here, bud," he said to the youngest, "I see a word in your letters. Let me see those tiles."

"No!" The Youngest Unnamed cried. "I know what I'm doing!"

"Come on, bud, give me your pieces. Let me show you."

He insisted. He took the tiles out of the child's hand, placed them on the board and then turned back to the Youngest Unnamed, clearly expecting congratulations and gratitude. But the Youngest was so angry, he cried and left the room.

I never worried again about losing my kids.

But I did worry about him losing them. When he called a few months after the Scrabble fiasco to ask "Why won't the boys ever talk to me?" I tried to help the man out.

"Because you don't listen to them. Because when they try to tell you how they feel, you say 'Now, Bud, you don't really mean that!' and just roll over them with the way you want them to feel. You compete with them and have to win. You didn't like it when your mom did that to you. Try not doing those things to them."

Six years later he is still relating to the boys in the same way and expecting different results. It is sad to watch because the kids are almost grown and he is losing them.

This is hard for me to watch. My dad was the opposite of their father and I am so much richer for the gift of his respect.

My ex is missing out on such an opportunity because he hasn't learned that winning and being in control isn't at all what love is about...it's about mutual respect and teamwork.





Boardgames We Love or Have Loved...

Tribond
Wiz Dumb
Wise and Otherwise
Apples to Apples
Man Bites Dog

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Spoken by a great mother and mentor and read by me, a mother who has been through it. Sorry guys. Mom's just seem to have the upper hand with the love and respect of the children. Secretly I'm happy about that. :)