Childhood games actually foster important life skills

January 28, 2013 

I wonder if our nation’s leaders have ever played an inspiring game of Candy Land.

As children we loved to hang out in our pajamas and play board games. I was in charge; expected to help keep the peace, and to not take advantage of my position as the eldest.

Today, as 50-somethings, my brothers might dispute these childhood facts, but that’s how I remember it. My siblings provided me with lots of governmental checks and balances — in other words, they would tell on me.

Parental directives included a bunch of no’s; no arguing, no taunting, no lying, no cheating and no using the phrase, “That’s not fair!” Playing the ‘fairness’ card often led to fabrications of the truth — “You jumped too many spaces!”

“I did not!”

“Yes, you did!”

Inevitably, sides were taken, and the fun vanished. The game board and the pieces were abandoned in a huff, or abruptly put away for us.

Playing together meant we used our brains, treated one another with respect by taking turns, and accepted compromise, with limited, whispered bickering. Before my brothers could read, my big sister executive orders included a review of the game rules. Each brother would call into question any suspicious voice inflections, variations, or omissions of key words.

Compromises were generally forged such as, “Let’s just take two spaces back, not ten.”

We all liked to win, but because we played ‘fair and square’ it meant each of us had a chance to move our game pieces around the board and win or lose. Losing with dignity was an important lesson too.

A few times we secretly agreed to let someone win, but only if they were sick. Finishing the game led to positive outcomes regardless of who won; we all had fun, and we looked forward to playing again.

We strive to teach our children good life skills, just as we expect to see high standards modeled in those leading our schools, businesses, and churches. And, as citizens of this great Nation, we should expect to see demonstrated the highest in skills from those we elect.

I sit on the board of directors for our local residential community where we don’t always agree on the issues. We are regular people working to find solutions that those we represent can live with, by exploring facts around budgets, architectural guidelines, and homeowner fees.

All too often I hear a tone of deference from the media, and others; excusing our nation’s leaders — as if they are above us all, or that the issues themselves are too complex to understand — they aren’t.

Our leaders eloquently talked a bipartisan game during the recent elections. Since then, we’ve heard suspicious inflections, variations and omissions; upping the ante for increased revenue and government spending without a balanced budget, or attention to the crippling debt and entitlements.

With these demands, blaming others seems to be in vogue, and a divide among us continues to grow under the guise of fairness. A lack of leadership is showing like a bad toupee, and many citizens are willing to pretend they don’t see the obvious crooked part, or mismatched shades of gray.

Some of us assume leadership looks that way, and others worry it is calculated incompetence.

We teach children to think, and to ground themselves in the game rules of life. As citizens we hope our leaders use their brains to solve problems without gloating, blaming, or playing the divisive, ‘fairness’ card. We expect they are credible, honest and civil as they thoughtfully read, and comprehend, proposed legislation — before casting a vote.

All of our leaders have a duty to respect the proper governmental checks and balances. Good government should demonstrate the same simple rules that we learned as children.

Our nation’s leaders might consider hanging out in their pajamas and play a round of Candy Land; maybe it will help save the country.

Kathleen Rogers is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors.

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