Chutes and Ladders was more fun when I was the kid

Our daughter is a few months from turning the magic age. Three, it seems, is to children what 16 is to teenagers and 21 is to college students. Worlds of possibility open at the age of 3.

Take, for instance, the Happy Meal. She will soon be eligible for the regular, not the under 3, toy every time. And we won’t feel guilty for giving her toys and books that say, “Small parts, not for children under 3.”

Perhaps most exciting is the entrance into the realm of board games. I grew up in a board game family. Some of my best memories are nights spent playing Monopoly with my grandparents or Taboo at Thanksgiving or Guesstures at Christmas. We’ve been reluctant to buy any kid-friendly board games because, while we think she’s brilliant (what parent doesn’t think their kid is a genius?), even we could recognize that she needed to be of a certain age before we attempted game play.

So, for Christmas, she received Chutes and Ladders. This week, especially, while her brother naps, she’s been asking to play it. She likes the fun pictures of the kids.

Here’s how one of our games tends to go:

I explain the rules to her.

She dances her game piece across the board.

I tell her she needs to spin.

She spins, then stops it with her fingers.

 I tell her to spin and let go.

She spins.

 I move her game piece to the correct spot.

She whines, “But Mommy, I want to go to the movies!” (one of the spots in the middle of the game board, at the top of a ladder is of a girl going to the movies).

I explain that she has to work her way up to that square.

She gets quiet.

 I spin and move my piece.

She moves her piece to the middle of the board without spinning.

I swallow the urge to walk away from the game.

I explain the rules again.

She says she wants to go ice skating (another of the spots on the board).

I explain that the ice skating square is a bad one because it makes you go back toward the beginning.

You get the idea, I hope. I suspected this might be a problem for me earlier in the week when she was playing with her vTech laptop, too. I don’t know the age recommendation for that, but I’m pretty sure she’s at least a year too young for it. All she wants to do is push the buttons and click the mouse with no regard for the rules. I want her to learn, but most of the time I just want to grab the mouse and play the games for her.

I’m a rule-follower. I like precision and doing things the “right” way. Sometimes, I can’t even color with her because I want to color the characters the way they’re “supposed” to be. (Are Dora’s shorts red? What color are Boots’ ears? Is Spongebob all yellow? These are the pressing questions in my life.)

Then I remember that I don’t do things right all the time. I don’t always follow the rules. I’ve messed up. I’ve made mistakes. Sometimes God has stepped in to stop me from doing wrong. Other times, He let me make a mistake and learn from it. And I realize how much love there is in that non-action. And how incredibly difficult it must be.

I don’t want my kids to make mistakes, especially the grievous, hurtful kind that can change a life forever. But I also know that I can’t do everything for them in life. That some things they’ll have to learn on their own. And sometimes they’re going to do things the wrong way, and I’m going to have to watch them do it, learn from it and grow from it.

For now, that means loosening up a little while playing games. So what if she doesn’t follow the rules? She’s not even 3 yet. She will learn in time.

And maybe, if I chill out a little bit, she’ll even WANT me to teach her.


One thought on “Chutes and Ladders was more fun when I was the kid

  1. I hate Chutes and Ladders. Even when they can play by the rules. It’s long, monotonous, and just when you think someone’s FINALLY going to win, they get sent back down a long chute and you’re back to square one. It’s high on my “refuse to play” list.

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