I come from a family of avid game players where tradition dictates that at a certain time deemed appropriate, you are old enough to learn how to play various board and card games. Along with this privilege comes perhaps one of our bigger rites of passage; to learn how to lose; a skill that some acquire and accept more easily than others.
As a kid, I remember being invited to the table to play. I was on cloud nine, feeling grown up sitting with my grandmother, my mom and my older relatives ready to play. It was a proud moment because it meant that they had decided that I was mature and smart enough to be with them and to learn the ins and outs of gameplay. And then, I'd lose, and lose again, and again. No one ever said, "better luck next time," or "don't worry, you'll get better." They didn't feel sorry for me or encourage me to keep at it. They just reshuffled and dealt the next hand.
When it became time for my own kids to learn, having never been as addicted to games as my mom was, she was the one to teach them. Sometimes I joined in and other times I would watch them play game after game after game. And, as usual, when my kids lost, my mom just reshuffled and dealt again. I could see the looks on their faces; the disappointment, the realization that they had so much more to learn before they might actually beat her. I wanted to catch her eye and give her a nod that said, "hey, just give them one. They look so sad, can't we cut them a break?" But she never did and they never quit.
As I've gotten older and my kids have become adults, I realize what a service my mother did for me and for my kids. Learning to lose and to accept disappointment is something that far too few kids have mastered today. Our youth seriously lack coping skills; the ability to realize that you are not the best at something, that no one owes you anything and that you might just have to try harder. Every time we email the teacher rather than make them go speak to her themselves, every time we keep them from accepting consequences for their actions, every time we fix it for them, we take away an opportunity for them to solve their own problems, to cope with the consequences and to become a well- rounded, well -adjusted adult.
So, do your kids a favor and from the comfort and safety of your own home, let them lose a hand of cards. Let them fall all the way down that blasted chute in Chutes and Ladders. It's your job to teach them how to best make their way in the world without you and learning that you can't always win, or that people won't always make something easier for you is doing your children a lifelong favor. And when they do eventually win; because, you know that day will come, it makes the victory all the sweeter for they know it's real, it's earned and it's theirs.
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