Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Not What You Have; It's How You Play

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I'm thinking of annnnnnnnn animal! Mister Man excitedly shouts.

Hmmm, is it an animal that you might typically have as a pet? I ask.

Nope, definitely not a pet, he giggles.

Oooo, ooo, pick me, pick me! shouts Anthony (not his real name).

Go ahead, Anthony. It's your turn, I gently explain.

Is it extinct? he inquires.

YES! shouts Mister Man enthusiastically.

Is it a dinosaur, asks Sharon (not her real name).

Why, yes, it is a dinosaur, Mister Man nods.

Yay! I won. It's my turn now, bounces Sharon.

No, you need to figure out what kind of dinosaur it is, Mister Man corrects.

Ummm, is it a carnivore? I attempt weakly, knowing this game suddenly got harder.

Yes! It's a carnivore, Mommy! Mister Man proudly declares.

Is it a T-Rex? asks Anthony.


Is it an allosaurus? asks Violet (still not her real name).

I give up. I don't know dinosaurs, pouts Sharon.

Nope, it's not an allosaurus, grins Mister Man.

Is it... a velociraptor? I venture.

No, Mom. It's not from the Jurassic Period. It lived in the Cretaceous Period, Mister Man grinds out (ok, so my accuracy might be getting a bit off here - I can't keep track of the details of dinosaurs - sadly, my eyes still glaze over a little bit after too much detail).

Is it an Argentinosaurus? asks Violet.

No. You're in the wrong period. Mom was closest, Mister Man replies.

Is it an eoraptor? I'm digging for any dinosaur I can think of now.

No, Mom. You have the wrong period again, his impatience is growing (as is that of the rest of us in the car).

Is it a pteronodon? asks Anthony.

That isn't even a dinosaur! complains Mister Man. No actual dinosaurs ever flew. They just lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.

The game continued on, and eventually we all gave up, with Mister Man announcing a dinosaur he insists I've heard of but that I can't name for the life of me now. He chose Violet to have the next turn, and luckily she chose a rainbow, which was far easier to guess.

As I'm driving carpool four mornings of five, I have five children in my car from kindergarten to second grade - with more personalities amongst them than you can shake a stick at. They all have their different likes and disllikes and preferences for what they want to do.

To keep the peace in the car, I somehow stumbled on playing Twenty Questions instead of arguing over whether we would listen to Radio Disney, Kids Place Live, or Cinemagic on the way to school. I'm pretty sure it came from me picking a letter in the alphabet to see who would get to choose the next song on the radio.

Every day now, we play Twenty Questions. Anthony almost always picks a sports team (fortunately I can rattle off just about all the teams from the NFL, MLB and NHL). Sharon likes to choose people who are generally teachers or relatives. Little Miss goes for fish, and Violet chooses things. Mister Man, of course, always has a different dinosaur. Having played often enough now, it makes it easier for me to narrow down the mysterious item, and it's a joy to watch the five children all working together to play a game where they all know the rules and have to respect each other to earn a turn.

I think about the bus Little Miss used to ride to preschool where she was the only child on the bus not immersed in a handheld video game of some sort. I see the families out for a nice dinner together where the children never interact with anyone or anything - including the wait staff - other than their video games.

And you know what? I feel sorta sorry for them. The wee ones never complain about being bored, and it's hilarious to watch the games they come up with for themselves. Give them a pen and paper or three pieces of Lego or anything really, and they can turn it into something amazing - which usually draws me into the game, too, as I find it fascinating what they create and how they use their imaginations. I hope that this serves them well in later years, as I know the day will come when their phones or computers or video games will enter their lives and we won't have our fun little games.

That day is a ways off, and in the meantime I'm enjoying the time I have with the wee ones. I love coming up with off the wall games from finding every word we can think of that starts with a certain letter to seeing how many steps it takes us to walk around the dining room table - forwards and backwards.

And by the way, I can get around my table in eleven steps now. It used to take me fourteen.

This post was inspired by the book Room by Emma Donoghue that was this month's selection for my Left to Write book club where we read a book but don't review it - instead we write a post inspired by something in the book. I received a copy of this book, but there is no compensation, and all opinions are my own. As a side note, I'm sorry, but no, I would not recommend this book. I haven't slept through the night in the six nights since I finished it. It's not my kind of book.


Megryansmom September 26, 2010 at 3:59 PM  

Well my curiosity is piqued, might have to check it out.

Linsey K / Me Too You / From Left to Write September 27, 2010 at 2:08 AM  

I drive carpool too - four 4-year-olds - and it is so funny to listen to their conversations. Mostly they tell stories, but they get annoyed with each other, jealous, etc.

I am going to have to see how many steps it takes me to get around my table - ha!

Sky Princess September 27, 2010 at 10:06 AM  

Carpooling five children should come with a paycheck.

JennieB September 27, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

The was Ma played with Jack was one of my favorite parts of the book and I can see why you were inspired to write about it. Kids learn so much through play, so keep doing what you're doing! Going to walk around table now...

Holly Wolly September 27, 2010 at 8:14 PM  

I have a book club too, and we don't discuss the book either, but we don't write, we drink wine and eat cheesecake...
I love the 20 questions game, that's what my boys do too, I know so many other kids who watch tv in the car...what a waste of together time...

Pat September 27, 2010 at 9:56 PM  

I love that you interact so much with your kids and make up games with them. You're right--you do see families together sometimes where the kids are lost in their own iPod or video game world, isolated electronically from the family circle.

I occasionally still have the pleasure of giving kids rides home and I really enjoy their conversations and interacting with them.

Michelle September 28, 2010 at 8:17 PM  

Megryansmom - I still haven't slept a whole night since reading it. It is a very unique book, however!

Linsey - So how many steps *does* it take you? :)

Sky Princess - There are days I think so. Generally, we keep things pretty well under control though. They know that I have my limits!

JennieB - It was incredible the way she played with Jack. The creativity and ability to make something of nothing was a reminder of how much we take for granted.

Holly Wolly - I like your kind of book club! A few friends started a movie club for that very reason :)

Pat - It isn't just that they're missing family time, but they aren't learning how to entertain themselves without al electronic device attached to them - definitely an important skill (as I type from my laptop)!

mastermindmommy September 29, 2010 at 8:51 PM  

My older one has discovered the world of video games already and I'm sad that he's so enveloped in it. However, he does not ever stop talking. Ever. And it's usually about the game he playing. Or space. Both topics I know so little about that my standard reactions are "Oh, yeah?" and "wow, really?" Thankfully MY Little Miss is too young to lose herself in all that video game crap, although I do have trouble keeping her attention when the TV is on, but I think she gets that from her father!

Excellent post!

Michelle September 30, 2010 at 12:42 PM  

Mastermind Mommy - Oh I'm sure we'll get there with the video games, too. It's amazing how many topics of conversation they can come up with on such ummmm special subjects? They never seem to run out of things to say - which I suppose is good in a way, right?

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