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Is winning everything?

Cleaning up after dinner the other evening, I started thinking about the differences between mothers and fathers. Mind you, the thought didn't randomly pop into my head. Quite the opposite, I was watching my "children" (Shayna, 3 1/2; Breanna, 5 1/2; and Jeffrey, 30-something) play a harmless game of Candy Land, when the subject naturally occurred to me.

Is winning everything?

No mercy


You see, when Jeffrey plays with the girls, he's out for blood. The object of the game is to win, and he'll do whatever it takes to ensure he's the victor.

We all know the real rules of Candy Land: The first player to successfully move her Gingerbread playing piece to the Candy Castle at the end of the path wins! But not in our house. Goldstein Game Night -- and life in general around here -- can be broken into two clear camps: girls vs. Jeffrey.

Breanna thinks she plays like her dad. She knows that the object of the game is to win, win, win at any cost. But there's one difference between this father and daughter: Jeffrey doesn't cheat. And Breanna does -- badly.

"I'll go first," Breanna declares innocently after shuffling the cards herself.

"Why don't we go in age order?" Jeffrey suggests, eyeing the deck suspiciously.

"No, Daddy, I have to go first!" Breanna demands, looking devilish as she quickly smuggles the deck close to her chest.

Stealing a look at the top card (none other than Queen Frostine, the best possible card in the deck) Jeffrey says smugly, "Nice try, pal. But you're not playing by the rules."

Watching this familiar little scene, I can't help but read his mind. "Amateur," he's thinking. "You play like a girl."

And he's right. Some girls play to get along, be nice, exchange ideas, share a good time, receive approval -- Breanna's personal favorite on this night. When they compete it's more emotionally, intellectually. Men compete simply to win. Could Jeffrey be on to something here? Could he be giving our girls a competitive edge indirectly?

I'm all for teaching our girls the pros of winning. Girls like to win and they feel good about themselves when they do it -- fairly. Every parent wants their daughter to have lots of self-esteem. It's her passport to a happier, more fulfilled life. I, like Jeffrey, believe that if we set the bar high, we can expect greatness from our girls.

Swiftly passing Shayna's playing piece on the board, Jeffrey shouts gleefully, "Eat my dust, baby!" But Shayna's simply happy that her dad's moving ahead. Her goal is not to skip past Princess Lolly or to cleanly slide through Molasses Swamp. All she wants is to be next to her daddy's gingerbread man playing piece, even if he is "Lost in Lollipop Woods."

"C'mon, girls. Daddy's on a winning streak!" Jeffrey interjects as Shayna continues her happy dance.

The Candy Land competition continues smoothly until -- miracle of miracles -- Shayna pulls a double purple card and actually wins! "Oh, man! Beat out by a three-year-old again!" Jeffrey says, faking outrage and pretending to throw his green gingerbread playing piece across the room. Now I get it. This bad-sport act is all for show. He's just trying to teach the girls the fun of winning.

Thinking that winning means everything to her daddy, Shayna quickly hands him the double purple card and says, "Here, Daddy. Now you can win too." Talk about playing like a girl! I think Shayna needs to take Jeffrey's indirect class in competition again. Or does she?

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