Winning Isn't Everything

"Winning isnít everything." How often did we hear that infamous axiom while growing up? Meant to emphasize the fun of the game, teach us to be gracious, and most of all to soften the blow of losing, parents have uttered these words since the beginning of time. Itís not hard to imagine cave children fighting over a game of "Duck, Duck, Tyrannosaurus Rex", and a Cavemom intervening with a grunted form of "Winning Isnít Everything, now run before that Velociraptor eats you!"

And so it has gone down through the ages with varying degrees of success. Much has to do with the personalities involved. I have emphasized this concept with my own children since they could understand, but as I have come to learn, simply coming from the same gene pool does not identical children make.

Take my oldest daughter, thoughtful, introspective, FAIR. She truly believes that the fun part is simply playing the game and enjoying the camaraderie. It is a true joy to play any game with her. Whether it is a board game like Clue, a video game from Nintendo, or an old fashioned card game of SlapJack, it is simply an enjoyable experience. And while her lack of a killer competitive instinct pretty much rules out professional sports when she grows up, her grace when winning or losing would make her a wonderful Ambassador to the United Nations . . . or Disney World.

Then thereís my middle daughter, Kendall -- or as we call her, The Gladiator. Somehow her psyche has always translated "Winning Isnít Everything" into "Winning Is The ONLY Thing." This child was born with a "game face". From the second her birth was induced, life has been a race; she emerged from the womb so quickly, there was almost no one to catch her. I swear her tiny face held a look of triumph, similar to an Luge competitor who sets a new Olympic record.

To this child, life is one long series of contests. Say something as innocuous as, "kids, get in the car," and she is pushing, leaping, and striding as if there were a pile of gold in the vehicle. God forbid the phone should ring when she is home. She will annihilate all in her path to be the first to grab the handset. Surely Publisherís Clearinghouse is on the other end with a million dollars for the one who answers. Oddly enough, should I request someone clean the hamster cage, she is the first to develop rickets and walks as if in quicksand.

Playing an actual game with her is a study in masochism. Why else would anyone who knows her voluntarily engage her in competition? (That is partially rhetorical as she is the apple and I the tree she fell not far from.) She battles for "the" piece and the right to roll the dice first. She recounts any move you make, and you can actually see storm clouds form over her head should she begin to lose. My prediction for her? If Power Monopoly ever becomes an Olympic sport, she will take the Gold Medal (probably the silver and bronze too). And if that doesnít pan out? She will definitely be the lawyer you want on YOUR side.

Finally there is my youngest. At five years of age, she is still learning the basics like counting, learning the rules, reading the cards, etc. Happy-go-lucky and thrilled when someone will actually play with her, it is a pretty enjoyable time. At least it was until today. She asked if I would play "Go Fish" with her. Of course I said yes. I was also prepared to do the parental thing, and "let" her win. We all do that, right? Increases their confidence, self-esteem, etc. I was, however, unaware that my darling kindergartner has become something of a "card sharp". She proceeded to soundly kick my butt, not once, not twice, but three times. And each time she performed a dance worthy of an NFL player who just scored a touchdown.

There is a town in the desert with very bright lights just waiting for her to turn 21.

As I cleaned up the cards and the remains of my ego, I chanted over and over to myself, "Winning isnít everything, Winning isnít everything . . ."

Yeah, right, what idiot made that up? Wanna play Monopoly? I get to be the shoe!