Bud got the game Candy Land for Easter. He's never been a board game kid, but the time seemed right to try again and the game seemed manageable, so we broke it open on Sunday night. I explained the game to Bud - the premise, the rules, the goal - then we chose our playing pieces and we started to play.
And then I became The Candy Land Czar.
Bud drew color-coded cards and skipped his playing piece hither and yon around the board with nary a care about reaching the end as I barked out orders, re-directed him to move his playing piece to the "right" spot, and effectively stripped the game of any hint of joyful play.
The game ended with Bud winning, but I don't think he cared. In fact, I think he was probably relieved to have it behind him. As we packed the game back into the box I silently scolded myself. What had my goal been? Was I using the game as an opportunity to teach Bud the importance of following directions, taking turns, and paying attention? Or was I trying to have fun with him? The truth is, I was probably trying to do both - but while I may have had a modicum of success with the first goal, I think I failed miserably with the second. I vowed to do it differently next time - if I could ever get Bud to play with me again.
On Wednesday night, Bud agreed to give it another try. This time, I eased back on trying to micromanage his playing and, in response, he stepped up to meet the demands of the game. I taught him how to follow the cards to move forward to meet the established goal. He taught me that choosing a picture card that zips you back to the beginning is not a bad thing, because Look! Ice cream! , and that losing a turn on a Licorice Space is not really a penalty, but a treat - because, after all, it gives you twice as much time to enjoy the Twizzlers. He laughed with me when I accidentally moved his playing piece instead of my own, causing us both to lose track of our places on the board so badly that we had to go back several turns and start again. I indulged him in a jaunt off the Candy Land path to take a leisurely stroll through the Peppermint Forest.
Wednesday night's game took a lot longer than Sunday night's game. It was much less efficient. It was entirely nontraditional. It was a lot more fun. And - what do you know - we still made it to the end. We still reached our goal.
You can learn a lot from a board game.