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The Art of War (Part 1 of 4)


But the idling of our elders is called business; the idling of boys, though quite like it, is punished by those same elders, and no one pities either the boys or the men.

Augustine’s Confessions

I loved board games and card games as a kid, and I still do. I’m always willing to play Settlers or Dominoes or Rage (an acceptable-to-Baptists version of the old stand-by face card game “Oh Hell.” I didn’t name it, remember!). My older brother wasn’t always available to play games with me when I really started to understand them, but we did play more than our share of Battleship and PayDay. My mom was always willing to play Uno or Go to the Head of the Class or Chutes and Ladders, but she couldn’t stomach the Game of Life. “Too realistic!” she claimed. And I quickly found out that playing Clue with the cat just wasn’t going to work.

My oldest has just taken to games. He likes “Goggle,” “Hippos,” and, just recently, War. I think it’s as much the soldiers on the cards as anything. And you know, there are some big lessons there — turn-taking, counting, comparing numeral values, and following the rules.

It’s that last one that trips us up. My oldest, the just newly minted 4.5 year old, rewrites the rules as we play. I lay down a nine and he lays down a four. “Mommy, didn’t you want to trade that one with me first?” “Mommy, but this one has a sword, and I reeeeeally like swords.” I just stare and sigh and then grin and remember, shaking my head more at myself than anything.

I did the same thing. Maybe that’s why the cat was the most willing to play with me because she didn’t care if I took a peek at her next card or traded my Scrabble tray of vowels for some of her consonants.

And Augustine’s reminder plunks me between the eyes every time my son revises the game play. It’s not the kids are any different than adults. Adults bend or make up the rules as we go. It’s just kids aren’t as skilled at hiding it.

Life teaches us to be sneaky, not to be good.

2 thoughts on “The Art of War (Part 1 of 4)

  1. “Life teaches us to be sneaky, not to be good.”

    Reminds me of this quote:

    “Also…those us us who are the adults in the family have had a lot more time practicing and getting “good” at sin. Many of us have been practicing being selfish and manipulative and egocentric for decades before our baby comes along. And that tiny little being is brand new at this sin business. So I tend to warn new parents (if any of them want to hear it) that they need to worry a lot more about their own sin and selfishness than they need to worry that some tiny, helpless baby is on a rampage to have his own way.”

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