This morning I did one of those self-sacrificial rites of parenting that must be done, in spite of the general horribleness of it all. I played a game with Sam.
I doubt that I am the only mother who sees her child pulling out a game and runs for cover. I doubt I am the only one who dreads the words, “Mommy, will you play this with me please?” And I am positive that I am not the only mom who has ever made up an excuse (Oh, I’m sorry, sweetheart, I have to go wax my toes) in order to get out of playing a game.
Today I was stuck, however. He knew my toes didn’t need waxing. And, in fact, he knew that I was unlikely to do anything important all day since I was sitting on the couch reading a book at eight o’clock in the morning. Little snotball.
The game Sam had chosen was Memory– not the well-known Memory with chipboard cards and that stupid plastic tray that no child can ever get the cards into straight. My parents had purchased this Memory game for Sam for his birthday– fifty-four cards the size of index cards. Spread out on the floor, the game takes up most of our living room, and that’s if it’s Art or me who sets it up. Otherwise, it could easily take up the entire house.
When the boys play Memory, half the fun is deciding how to arrange the cards. Sometimes they are a rocket ship, sometimes a robot, sometimes a life sized reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. Sam was a little disappointed in my lack of creativity when I neatly arranged the cards into six straight rows of nine cards each.
Sam spent his first three turns turning over the two cards in the corner nearest him– an igloo, and a kitty cat. Over and over he turned these cards, as if he were hoping they would spontaneously turn into two kitty cats, or two igloos, or two birthday cakes. It’s fairly likely he’d still be sitting there, turning over the igloo and the cat like a mindless automaton, if he hadn’t noticed me turn over a card with a picture of a ring bearing a large, purple gem of some kind. Suddenly he leapt up, scattering cards as he went, pranced to the other side of the huge layout of cards, and said “MY found a match!” And he was right. There in his sticky little hands he proudly bore two matching cards.
Our game of Memory would have possibly gone a bit faster if Sam didn’t have a carefully-adhered-to routine regarding matched cards. Once he has made a match, he must fastidiously line up his cards behind him in a little pathway of beach balls, apples, foxes, and, of course, hideously huge purple-stoned jewelry.
We had been playing about fifteen minutes when Art arrived home from work. “Daddy!” Sammy sang out, gleefully turning over the igloo and the cat for the twenty-seventh time, “We are playing Membery!” I gave Art a clear save-me-from-purgatory look, which he heartlessly laughed at.
“Don’t let him lose by too much,” he suggested. I realized that in my desperation to end the endless game I had allowed myself to get about eight matches, while Sam had only three.
“My have SIX CARDS, Daddy! Because my have the biggest brain.” (He learned that charming phrase from his brother).
So I decided to let him pick off a few easy matches.
“Look,” I said loudly, turning over two cards, “A dog, and an octopus!”
“Mmmm-hmmmm,” my son commented, picking his nose. When it was his turn he imitated me. “A kitty cat, and an igloo!”
“Hmmmm . . . I wonder what could be over here. Look! It’s an octopus and a doggie!” I not-so-subtly pointed to where I had found the matches to the cards I had just shown him.
“My turn! Look! My found a hat! And an igloo!”
I turned over the dog and octopus cards again. And again. Sam got another match, totally on accident, when I suggested he try looking somewhere other than where the igloo was. I had just added another match to my own pile, an igloo, when Sam proudly announced he had found a match.
“Look Mommy! An octopus and an octopus!” I smiled my very best proud smile. He took another turn, and turned over the dog. Prancing over to the other side of the cards, he picked one at random and started to flip it.
“Samuel!” I interjected, perhaps more strongly than necessary. “Use your brain! Think about it. You’ve seen that doggie before. Where is it? Remember!”
He looked at me a moment, then walked back to the other side and immediately flipped over the matching card. It’s not that he didn’t know; he simply didn’t care. To Sam, life is about the experience, not about the end result. It might take him a little longer to get there, but that’s okay because he’s going to enjoy every minute along the way.
I, on the other hand, was quite happy when he finally placed his last match into his long, curvy column of cards. We counted.
Final score: Sammy, twelve matches; Mommy, thirteen matches.
“My won! My won my won my won! My won at Membery!!!” he shrieked, violently dashing around the living room, sending cards flying everywhere.
I can’t blame him. Math isn’t my strong point either.