“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” ~ Anonymous.
I was never fond of competitive games as a child. Maybe it was because I was the youngest. I was not as smart, as quick, as experienced as my older siblings, and my feelings would get hurt quite easily. Rules were very often bent for my benefit. When we used to go camping, one of our outdoor sports (weather permitting in wild and rainy Wales) was a version of cricket called ‘French cricket’. The lone batsman stood in the middle of a circle surrounded by the bowlers who took it turns throwing the ball at the batsman. The batsman was not allowed to move his/her feet, and so it could get quite tricky to protect your shins from the ball if the bowler was standing behind you! I was never out the first time the ball hit my shins (in lieu of a wicket). I was the only one allowed two chances.
Monopoly was another game that I never quite liked. I was too cautious, too risk-averse, I would think too hard before spending my money. But I stopped playing forever after the first game I played with my husband early in our marriage. His style of playing (probably learned in boarding school, a survival of the fittest environment) was the most testosterone driven, take no prisoners style of playing. I made the mistake of letting him play with our older kids once. They probably still need therapy to this day! He ripped around the board buying everything on sight; he made backroom deals and extorted his poor kids; by the time he was bankrupt the kids were crying in the corner and I was planning to ‘disappear’ the game altogether!
I guess when I say I am not competitive, what I really mean to say is I hate losing. This is probably not uncommon. How many of us love a sport for the sake of playing? Losing is no fun. One football season my oldest son played for an optimist football team that did not win one single game. It was so hard trying to find the silver lining in the cloud each week! I guess it taught him persistence and perseverance, but it definitely was not easy to keep his spirits up.
In a competitive world life becomes much easier when you realize that you don’t have to compete against anyone but your own expectations of yourself. In one graduate class I was taking, a few of us were feeling very frustrated at our progress. We complained to the professor at our feelings of inadequacy. She reminded us that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows the feeling of wanting it to be over. The months seem to stretch longer than any other months. As your size and weight increase, the end seems to keep moving further away. But you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It is not about you but the process of making a baby, of the baby getting whatever it needs from the safe environment of the uterus. And eventually even pregnancies end!
This week I heard that the game of Monopoly is going cash free. Piles of pretty colored bank notes are not only replaced by cards and ‘swipers’, there is an automated banker who tracks your balance, your purchases and debts. The conversation was whether children would learn as much from an automated referee? For many children, the game was a realistic way to understand the meaning of money; a way to strengthen your skills of adding and subtracting; of being able to compare values of items. I well remember trying to teach my daughter (without the help of monopoly) the reality of income and expenditure. She was probably asking why she couldn’t get some expensive item and I decided to help her grasp my reality: this is how much I earn, this is what the mortgage is, this is how many bills we have each month, etc. Some years later she confessed that she had had sleepless nights after that lesson. I had painted the picture so well that she thought we could become homeless at any moment.
These are harsh days for many children all over the world. They do not have the freedom to worry about card games, or competitions. They have existential threats to their well-being. It is getting harder and harder to see images of children locked away like prisoners; harder to see starving children in the middle East; harder to imagine what kind of people we are who do not insist that children cannot and must not be the pawns in the cruel games played by adults.
This Friday morning I hope that you can find fun in a non-competitive way, knowing that the only person you have to challenge and overcome is yourself. I hope you can find a way to contribute to the many groups who are desperately trying to force adults to treat children in a humane and loving way. I hope you can find joy in the simple pleasures of life, and share them with someone who needs uplifting.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!