And all was well with the world...As I know I have mentioned before, games play major bonding and educational roles in my family. And, as I have also already mentioned, so does gambling. These activities are equally important to my family’s culture - and so intertwined, so symbiotic, so complementary, that it’s hard to convince my family to do one that doesn’t involve the other.
In fact, currently all the rage in my parents’ homestead is: Horse Race. A homemade game that not only involves horses, but cards, dice and a money pot, as well. Combine that with the opportunity to lose the contents of your change purse in 30 minutes flat, and you’ve got a winner!
It took nearly a week of subtle hinting, and finally guilt-tripping to get these people to play my newest non-betting board game. It covers all the bases: charades, celebrity impersonations, drawing, sculpting, trivia and puzzles - oh, and sufficient opportunity for heckling between teams. We gathered around the table - my sisters, their two children, my mother and I. Players ranged in age from 10 to 58, one child per team.
We decided which tasks were “kid-worthy” and which weren’t, and assigned turns accordingly. For example, my mother, the eldest player, was required to hum Rod Stewart’s song “Do ya think I’m sexy?” While this game task was clearly inappropriate for the younger members of the team, after watching my mother act it out (even though that’s against the rules), well, it was clearly inappropriate for her as well.
The children got tired of us filtering their turns, though, and lobbied for us to allow them to read their own clue for the next set of charades. We told them that as long as they understood the word, they would have to act it out. If they had any trouble, however, they could consult our older uncle for help, since he saw no point in playing a non-betting game and opted to sit this one out.
Surely enough, the kids read the card and said they didn’t know what to do.
“Well”, said my niece, “I know what the word is, but, ummmmmm…”
And, since the golden rule of games in is “no mercy for persons over the age of five” - we all yelled in unison: “If you know the word, you have to act it out!”
“But…but…but,” stalled the children, their eyes widening in embarrassment already.
Our elderly uncle took the children to the adjacent room to confer. When they emerged, it was revealed that he didn’t know how to do it either.
“Just give it a try”, my sister told the children encouragingly, “It’s just a game.” And so, we turned the timer over and waited.
The children stood, their arms straight by their sides, staring ahead blankly - frozen.
“A statue?” I guessed. No, that wasn’t it.
“A Mountie?” my mother guessed. No, that wasn’t it.
“A tree?” my sister guessed. No, not it either.
“Why aren’t either of you moving?” we asked. “We can’t guess if you don’t act it out! Come on guys. Move around or something! Give us a hint!”
The children shifted nervously. Arms hanging straight, looking slightly terrified and very confused. Time was running out.
“Come on guys!”
At this point, the children were getting frustrated. My nephew’s eyes began rolling into the back of his head. His jaw was slack and I was certain my first guess - zombie - must have been right. He probably just didn’t hear me. I yelled it again.
The kids shook their heads “no”.
My mother and my sisters and I looked at each other, squinting, thoroughly confused as to what the kids were “acting out”. They were so unusually awkward. Standing more still than we even thought was possible at their age.
Much to the relief of the ten-year-olds, the last grain of sand dropped to the bottom of the timer - their eyes fixed on it - knowing that this would let them off the hook.
“What the heck was it?” we all yelled.
The kids - both of them - looked at us, the adults, as if we were stupid, and yelled:
“We were FLIRTING!!”
We - all the adults - laughed until we cried. We laughed because children are exposed to so much questionable media content - so much sex and violence and American Idol; because of the things they are exposed to at school - like sex and violence and underfunded education systems and junk food - and because of our fear that our children are just growing up too fast for anyone’s good. We laughed because we were relieved.
My niece and nephew are right at the stage ten-going-on-eleven-year-olds should be: Absolutely freakin’ clueless about dating.