Ever try to throw a game of Candy Land? It’s not as easy as you might think.
Virtually every parent out there has pushed a token in the shape of a Fat Jolly King, a Skinny Clown or a Princess over a road of colored squares through the Peppermint Forest and Gumdrop pass. The game is a classic and set up so simply that groups of children can, theoretically, play unsupervised. The box says for ages three and over, but I am confident that the good people at Milton Bradley that are responsible for putting that on the box have never met a three-year-old.
The problem is that three-year-olds hate to lose and the game is so simple that there is no way to let the them win without getting called on it. My wife and I were working our way down the Rainbow Trail with our three-year-old Eli. I put the first game away after drawing the ice cream cone card as we were bunched up in Peanut Acres. The ice cream cone is the Candy Land game changer. It puts you just outside Snow Flake Lake on the home stretch to victory. I won and, suprisingly, Eli held it together admirably. We needed Eli to win the next game and we were willing to do what we had to do to make it happen.
I prefer checkers for letting kids win. You can pretend not to see the triple jump and, instead, move your king in front of your childs lowly one-direction, non-royal disk. Throwing a checkers game is easy. Of course a lot has to do with the child you are playing with. Charlie is all about the victory. He is more than happy to let me throw a game of Tic Tac Toe. A win is a win.
Video games are a cinch to let your child win. Well, they are for me. That’s because I am not very good at them, especially the sports based games. Our oldest son Parker has been kicking my butt since he was 10. It took him a little while to actually win a game, however. We would suffer mysterious “power failures” whenever he was ahead and game time ran low. He caught on after awhile and made me sit away from the electrical plug. I know, I know. It’s not very sporting to kill power when you are behind, bu Parker was a little less fragile than his younger brothers, and it was fun watching him wonder why only the Atari or Nintendo deck was effected by the power outage. He still keeps his me on me around the reset button.
Eli was tense as the second game started. I knew that he needed to bring this one home to keep his three-year-old competitive streak dry and quiet. Failure would mean tears and screaming. The second game started well enough. It was a dead heat as we came out of the Gumdrop Pass into our second trip past the Licorice Forest. Then the wheels came off.
Eli drew the peppermint stick card. That put him way back of his mom and me, all the way to the Peppermint Forest. “Hey!” he said. Well that is kind of what he said. He managed to make the word last several seconds and incorporate 11 vowels and numerous changes in voice pitch. He moved his Fairy Princess token to the peppermint stick square on the Rainbow Trail. That’s right, he was using the Fairy Princess token. He’s three. Don’t judge.
“It’s OK, buddy,” I said quickly. “You will catch up.” I drew my card. Lollipop. Crap. The lollipop card isn’t the throat punch that the icre cream cone is, but it’s close. Coming right after a three-year-old draws the peppermint stick, it’s a will-breaker.
My wife looked at me. It was written on my face. “One green,” I said and tried move my Fat King one square ahead. I tried to slip my card into the discard pile without Eli noticing. He’s too smart for that.
“It’s not one green!” he yelled indignantly. “It’s the lollipop!”
“No, this one means one green I think.”
“You have to go to the lollipop,” he said indignantly.
“No . . .”
“CHEATER!” he shrieked.
There aren’t many shades of grey in the world of three-year-old competitive board game play. It’s black and white. If you aren’t following the rules, then you are cheating. Reverse cheating is still cheating. To a three year old few things are worse than a low-life who cheats at Candy Land. He grabbed my Fat King and placed him on the lollipop. Then he scanned the board and realized his tactical situation.
“Hey!,” he moaned for many seconds and with many syllables. “Eli is losing!” Using the third person made it sound much worse than it was.
After that he kind of checked out on us. He went through the motions. He just gave his mom a dirty look when she pulled the ice cream cone a few moves later. He was completely disinterested and barely back to Peanut Acres when I pulled ahead of my wife and wrapped up my second straight game. I tried not to gloat. It was hard to be humble after pulling the ice cream cone and lollipop in successive games.
He declined a third game and opted for riding his tricycle. It’s winter here now and we allow him to ride his trike in the house. It’s not his fault we live in a decidedly tricycle-in-November-unfriendly environment. He was trying to shake off the losses and his lips moved slowly as he peddled. I am pretty sure that I heard “stupid lollipop” as he peddled by.
I was glad to see that at least he was doing something non-competitive to get past the Candy Land incident. He needed to decompress. He peddled for a few minutes then stopped beside me.
“Hi Daddy,” he said. “Wanna race?”
Thanks for reading. We hope you are having a good start to this Holiday Season. We’ll see you again soon on This Side of the Diaper.