Saturday, October 27, 2007


We've entered a new era of game playing at our house. Elise has discovered board games with a vengeance. She doesn't quite get Memory, likes playing with the little plastic cherries in Hi-Ho-Cherrio a little more than she likes counting them, and loves Candyland with an undying passion.

Not that many months ago, I relegated the games to a cupboard because they were a constant source of frustration. Not only did Elise refuse to acknowledge that there were any rules about how to play with these things, but she'd throw fits if such things were suggested.

All of that changed last Thursday. Now, she wants to take turns, wants to compete, wants to see everyone who's playing be happy. So, while it breaks her heart that anyone else would ever have the audacity to draw the gingerbread card, she understands that it's traumatic for us to have to go back to the beginning and the tantrums have abated.

It's funny playing board games with a kid, because I definitely don't want to teach her the same trash-talking I use when playing cribbage with Andy. But that's how I tend to be competitive. How do you model appropriate competitive behavior? Dunno. I'm trying to keep the "neener neener"s to myself, and end with a handshake and "good game." Hopefully, that modeling will help keep her from getting run out of preschool on the first day. Whenever that will be.

There are some other games going on here lately that are slightly less fun. We now have the "stalling at bedtime" game as well as the "burst into tears at the drop of a hat" game. We're shaving time off our bedtime game and will likely be ready for the pro tour sometime in the next five years. It's hard to resist getting that "one last" hug from someone whose serve is so great, but that's generally where we've lost time so sacrifices have been made.

My biggest fear is getting stuck on the amateur circuit for an extended period of time, never quite escaping that last hug, last story, last trip to the potty, last drink of water, last really last trip to the bathroom, last nightlight complaint, last last last... We're working on it. Last night, I thought we had it, and then 45 minutes later I hear a loud noise from Elise's room followed by, "I'm warnin' yeh!" Flapjack had cleverly managed to re-start the game by hiding under Elise's bed and then clawing at the door to get out of the room. Hilarious!

The game with the crying is a bit harder. It involves tears every time something doesn't go Elise's way. She wants a kid laptop every time we go to Target. She wants the brown tights that match nothing we own in this world. She wants to play another round of Candyland before dinner. She wants to carry her stuffed animals to the mailbox and doesn't discover that until we're half-way down the sidewalk from the sofa upon which she left them minutes before. If Mommy is not on call and present 100% of the time, the world has ended. Nobody can fill the gaping void while Mommy has a small task to complete sans child, and woe be it to any fool who tries.

This has become a little less harrowing with the extensive use of time-outs to distract from the weeping. A quick cool-off when a tantrum over (name of molehill) begins tends to put things back on an even keel.

Normally, I'd be all worried that we messed something up horribly and that we have somehow permanently damaged our kid. This time, I have watched her acquire new social and fine motor skills in one giant burst, and the perpetual upset follow immediately. Just like when she was a baby, these brain re-wirings are unsettling. For all of us. For right now, I'm hoping to get through this one with some humor.

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