Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Little Card Shark

Every day, every single live-long day, I am locked in a card tournament with a tenacious opponent. He's not the best sport - yet. He throws cards around in frustration and tries to pull the wool over my eyes occasionally, but he trusts me a lot; he always has me deal. I hope every hand to lose. Not because he's so cute with his frosty blond hair and his sweet blue eyes, but because it seems unfair to win too often when the boy doesn't even have a firm grasp on colors and numbers yet.

I'm speaking of playing Uno with my preschooler. He loves the game and demands at least three to ten hands of it every day before naptime. Though his appetite for cards is voracious, we never gamble with Hot Wheels, and we don't swig inordinate amounts of cool-aide or chocolate milk while wrinkling our brow at our opponent's Draw 4 or Skip cards.

He doesn't always like the rules, and he doesn't understand how to court Lady Luck. He'll keep his residual cards from a losing hand rather than have me shuffle them, and it never turns out well, poor fellow. In such circumstances, I'm likely to win several hands in a row though I give him prodigious help. Once he finally pulls one off, I breath easier, and we drag out Candy Land as a nice way to unwind from all the tension. He always goes first at that, and he almost always wins.

He's not my first child to monopolize my late morning or afternoon hours with games. I have encouraged my kids in this, because I grew up on board games and card games myself. My brother and I invented many versions of Uno in our quest for excitement, and we named them all after cultures and countries about which we knew very little: Indian Uno, Chinese Uno, Russian Uno, African Uno, and so on. I remember playing Rummy with my siblings for possibly hours in the summertime. And I have taught my kids their numbers and colors and basic reading through card or board games - an oft-overlooked and entertaining teaching tool.

All four of my kids have had their favorite games. With my eldest, Berto, it was Sorry!, and my husband and I complained often that the Sorry! leprechauns were with him; he nearly always creamed us. Ana, my first girl, liked Barbie Memory Match with numbers when she wasn't quietly entertaining herself with drawing whimsical birds or looking over books. Ella could embarrass us all in a match of Memory when she was three; after that, she developed an all-consuming love of puzzles - the only one to do so. We did several a day sometimes, and she quickly conquered the 100 piece at age 4.

And now it's my Danny Sammy, my littlest, with interminable games of Uno - carrying on the family tradition. And, honestly, except for some anxiety over engineering him a win, I feel very lucky to have this quiet time with him on the living room rug each day, every day. If he could stop mixing up his yellow and blue, I'd be willing to bet some sweet Hot Wheels and cool Little People that he could beat any kindergartener out there.

As for me I'm going to see if there's any money in this Uno thing, some Las Vegas high-stakes tournament, perhaps. I'd be a shoe-in for the jackpot. I've had years of practice.

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