Do you remember the games we used to play as kids? No, I’m not talking about board games, or even video games. I’m talking about mind games. The lies, the manipulations, the half-truths, the treacheries. Okay, so it wasn’t all that bad. I think all kids do it. But how do they learn it? When do they learn it? Why do they do it? Are our kids going to do the same to us? And, more importantly, are they going to get away with it?
If memory serves, it seems like this behavior really takes bloom during those teenage years. You quickly learn it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission (i.e. asking if you can go to a party, having them say “no,” and then going anyway is far worse than just going to the party and dealing with the consequences afterwards. You still get in trouble, but the latter merely comes across as an act of stupidity, while the former comes across as an act of sheer defiance). It seems like there is also a lot of telling people what they want to hear, nodding and smiling, while internally you are plotting further rebellions. It was during these teenage years that one of my mom’s friends told me: “it’s almost like you’re not having fun if you’re not getting in trouble.” And there was some truth to that. And, to a certain extent, there still is.
Of course the games start long before teenage-dom. I still distinctly remember the first time I tried the I-didn’t-like-Mom’s-answer-so-let’s-see-what-Dad-has-to-say ploy. Dad, of course (as dads often do) said yes, in clueless contradiction to Mom’s no. I was probably about 5. It didn’t end well. I have recently had occasion to spend a considerable amount of time around a fellow of just this same age. They are still pulling these same shenanigans.
They also like to tattle, five-year-olds. I know one five-(now six)year-old that likes to tattle on his dad, to his (the 5/6 year old’s) mom, not realizing that she is Dad’s peer, not his, and that Dad, too, is his parent, not his peer. Still, this dad does kind of tremble in fear when he overhears the five-year-old tattling:
“Dad watches Dad shows with bad words in them,” he spouts, in that tattle-tale sing-song all kids know innately.
“Oh really?” asks Mom, intrigued. “Like what?”
“Like words that start with ‘sh.’ Bad words like that,” he says, still sing-song.
“Well that does sound bad,” says Mom, disapproving glare at Dad.
“Yeah, he watched one today that said it three times,” he says.
“Oh REALLY???” say’s Mom, the glare intensifying.
“Yeah, it said ‘shut up’ three times!” he boasts, triumphant, the taste of the “forbidden word” delicious on his lips.
Phew! “Shut up!” They say “shut up” on the Disney channel. I still wouldn’t want my kids using it all the time, but there are certainly worse words it could have been…
I say “kid games,” but do we ever stop playing? It seems like dating involved a lot of gamesmanship, white lies, deceptions. You can’t help but see it in the workplace. You can participate or not, but seeing others get ahead with their games, games, games, and more games, you can’t help but let it make you wonder.
Do the games ever stop? Should we want them to? What would a game-free life look like?