Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A losing game?

Junior is a fantastic little boy but Jeez, is he a BAD loser!!

We were playing a game of Coppit after dinner tonight. It's my favourite board game, genuinely exciting and one which I have happy memories of playing as a child. I was trying to find the balance between providing opportunities for him to capture my 'men' and showing him that every action he made had a consequence. All was going well until I somehow managed to roll three sixes in a row which resulted in me 'copping' one of his men. Suddenly I was a "cheat" and everything was going wrong for him. The tantrum was spiralling at an alarming rate and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I tried to gently explain that I wasn’t making the die land on six every time it was just a fluke. Big, fat tears had started to plop onto the board, making it all soggy (his not mine!) I tried all the usual words of encouragement,
Come on, this is supposed to be fun!
You can’t always be the winner” (blah blah blah)
but it had gone too far. As far as Junior was concerned the world had turned against him in a big way. To be fair we’d had a busy day and he was exhausted but it got to the point where I couldn’t take any more of the huffing and deliberate sabotaging of the game (suddenly he was moving one extra square when I wasn’t looking or sliding the die instead of rolling it so he got a six!).
Right” I announced firmly, “if you continue to cheat I will put the game away
That was it. All the bones in Junior’s body melted and he had a complete emotional breakdown.
I always lose!” he yelled in between wracking sobs, “it’s not fair!
My patience was dwindling fast.
If this is how you react to losing a game how the heck are you going to cope when life really gets tough?” I sighed wearily, “ if you don’t get the job you want or you love someone who doesn’t love you back! If I had fallen apart every time I got a knock back I wouldn’t be sitting here right now!”
I knew I had taken things too far but it was too late. Junior’s tear stained face fell even further.
I don’t want to grow up!” he wailed, throwing the pieces down on the floor in a colourful explosion of plastic cones.
Sometimes I forget he is only six. Time for a cuddle and a wee pep talk me thinks....
He did calm down after a while, so much so that by the end of the game he shook my hand gallantly and said “Well done Mummy” which I thought was lovely. In fact I think I used the words “Jolly good sport” for the first time in my life. He congratulated me through gritted teeth but the point was he had the courage to remain dignified in defeat. It reminded me of a great quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ “Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change” This is the secret to life.
It did make me wonder if these little experiences in life prepare us for adulthood. Nobody likes to lose but it’s an important life lesson to accept that sometimes things don’t go our way and the only way to deal with that is to accept defeat and move on. Sometimes life can feel like it's a losing game. Perhaps if we can learn early on that not everything is going to go as planned, that sometimes the game doesn’t go our way and we can’t always throw a six then it will make rejection and loss easier to take when we are older. Having some tough setbacks can be really important. Losing is learning after all. Sometimes losing can change us, make us tougher. Sometimes we can take away a morsel of wisdom from one lost game and apply it to another game.

We’re into day six of the Easter break already and it’s been hectic but enjoyable. So far we’ve covered the cinema, an egg hunt, eating out, a country park, football club and soft play. Next week is even busier, including a much needed break away. On the down side we’ve had a nasty gash in the knee and some head lice to contend with. I love afternoons like we had today. We did some artwork, built the marble run together, chatted over home made soup and laughed so much at bedtime that some mouth wash came down Junior’s nose. I taught him how to sing “Blackbird” by the Beatles and when he sang it back to me I had a lump in my throat that I thought might choke me. We make a good team, me and Junior. Tantrums and traumas there may be but sometimes I look at my boy and wonder how it is possible to love someone so much and still be standing.

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