Out of nowhere my boys have entered a most wonderful phase where they can play together for significant amounts of time without fighting or gravely injuring each other. Don’t be overly impressed, ‘significant’ can mean 3 minutes, which is sometimes all I need to read an email, change my clothes, or hide in the closet and eat chocolate like a crazy person who will be damned if she has to share.
Usually their game of choice is wrestling, but sometimes they opt for football or ‘the game where we fight bad guys’. Whatever the game, it always seems to end in a tangled heap, smallest dude on the bottom alternatively laughing and crying, largest dude on top, victoriously pumping his fist, and middle dude in his preordained spot, somewhere in the middle.
Recently they have taken a stab at board games. The other day my 5-year- old tried to teach his 3-year-old brother to play chess. It went well until 5 tried to explain what the pawns did. He had a stuffy nose, and instead of ‘pawns’ 3 heard ‘bombs’, and spent the rest of the game bombing his brother’s pieces.
I tried to dissuade them from playing Monopoly one morning this past weekend. Given the chess debacle I just didn’t see it going well. But they were surprisingly successful given that only one third of the three fully grasped the object and instructions of the game.
It played out in a most interesting manner. 3 wanted money and lots of it. Not understanding the rules he relied on his brothers to help him make choices that allowed him to keep his cash. Consequently he bought no properties and spent the time in between turns rearranging his colorful bills and marveling over his monetary success.
5 was interested in real estate. He wanted property, any property, and he was willing to make ill-advised trades to garner additional acreage. He bought everything he could and spent the time in between his turns rearranging his cards and envisioning his glamorous life as a slumlord.
My firstborn wanted to win the game. But 8 was wise and wily enough to know that should he win too quickly or by too wide a margin his brothers would quickly lose interest and quit. So he made sure that the miserly brother accrued more money, and he gladly traded Baltic and Mediterranean to the slumlord for Boardwalk, ensuring that everyone was happy and unsuspecting as he proceeded to build hotels on all things expensive and win the game.
Eavesdropping from my perch on the couch in the next room I was unsure of how I felt about what transpired in that hour. It made me think of the three little pigs, and what their mother must have felt when she first heard their story. Did she feel like a failure for raising two stupid, lazy piglets who gave no thought to the future? Was she proud that she had at least produced one industrious piggy who knew that sticks and straws were not up to building code? She must have been grateful when the smart brick-using piggy took in his good-for-nothing brothers and made sure that they had a sturdy, wolf-free home. Or perhaps she was just relieved that they were all finally out of the house and she needn’t eat her chocolate in secret.
What will become of my miser, my slumlord, and my manipulator? Will the two little ones ever get a clue and hustle their big brother out of his throne on top of the pile? Will it happen sooner if I give them midnight tutorials on the finer points of Monopoly so we can give that smug kid his due? (As a middle child myself there is no doubt where my allegiance lies.) And if they go out in the world vulnerable and clueless, will the big dude take them in and make sure they don’t become piggy stew?
I wish they would stick to wrestling. Their bumps and bruises are much less exhausting than trying to predict their futures through board games. But let’s focus on what’s really important - I spent an hour on the couch! Monopoly rocks - I can’t wait to teach them Risk.