Thursday, March 19, 2009

Love is in the Cards

A few days ago, Sean and Mary came downstairs much after their bedtime to report Big News. I was ready to blow my top after they had both been out of bed approximately eleventy-bajillion times for various and sundry reasons. But both were so exuberant and happy, almost jumping out of their little skins with this Big News that I took a deep breath and shut my mouth to listen. (This is a practice I need to put into effect more often.)

Sean was bursting with pride as he said, "Mom! I just taught Mary how to play Go Fish!"

"Yeah!" Mary added looking with unbridled admiration at her older brother. "They teached me and now I know how and we can play!"

Not wanting to discourage such a great display of sibling cooperation, I roundly praised both of them and then told them to give me the cards and get in bed before their mother lost her everloving mind. Smiling and skipping, they headed back to bed and miracle of miracles, they stayed there until morning.

The next day, after the big kids had left for school, I was gearing up to make a dent in my perpetually mile-long To Do list, when I was accosted by a gap-toothed, bed-headed urchin beseeching me to play "Gold Fish" with her. "Pleeeeeease?!?" she begged.

Lately I've been realizing that Mary is really losing the last vestiges of baby/toddlerhood. She can do so many things on her own, she's developed this quirky sense of humor (where'd that come from?), she's turning five--five!!-- this summer. My last baby is no longer a baby and it's starting to bother me a little. So! I decided that all of those Very Important Tasks that I needed to start on could wait a bit while Mary and I played a game of cards.

Folks, my tolerance for preschool games is extremely low for someone whose vocational choice was working with young children. When presented with the choice of playing Candyland or gouging out my own eyeballs with a rusty fork and then pouring lemon juice and salt in the empty sockets, I would happily choose self-mutilation. I sort of feel the same way about card games like Go Fish and War. However, I soldiered on and grabbed the deck and shuffled.

We sat on the family room floor and I proceeded to deal the cards. Mary did just fine holding her cards until we actually started to play, then her hand looked like someone had just done "52 Card Pick-Up" with them. I decided it might work out better if she laid her cards out behind her on the floor so that she could actually see what she was fishing for. With the cards dealt and the card-holding problem managed, we began.

"Got any 7's?" she asked.

"Yep, you lucky duck, I do!" I told her.

She did a quick fist pump and hissed "Yesssss!"

"Got any 8's?" I asked.

"Gold fish", she said.

Now, I've corrected her a couple of times as to why you say "Go fish" rather than "Gold fish" and for some reason (probably stubbornness--I don't know where that comes from either. Shut up.) she still insists on saying "Gold fish". She's stopped saying so many of the cute phrases and malaprops that she used to say, that I've decided there are some things that I'm no longer interested in correcting. This is one of them.

Her turn. "Got any 8's?" she asked. Wait. She just sent me fishing for 8's, I thought, and decided I'd better have a quick peek at her hand to see if there was a misunderstanding. She didn't have any 8's either.

"Why are you asking for 8's?" I asked. "You don't have any in your hand and you're trying to make sets with the cards you actually have. You shouldn't ask me for 8's. Ask me for something else, like 10's or J's," I encouraged.

"But I really want some 8's! I just like 8's and really want 8's!" she pleaded batting her big, blue eyes at me.

And this is the point when I started to love playing this game. Her fabulous enthusiasm when she gained a card or made me fish, her fist pumps, and the inexplicable love for random numbers had started me on a path of new discovery for this game. We finished our game after several more rounds of fist-pumping and fishing and I emerged the winner. She was gracious in her defeat telling me "Good job, mama! You won! And next time I'm gonna win." I hugged her and told her that next time she might, you never know about things like that.

We've played a few more hands since that first game and she's won some and I've won some. She'll tell you that winning is sweet and she's right. But for me the sweetest thing is enjoying her where she is right now and focusing on some of the things I've been missing because I've been so caught up in my To Do list. So, call me a recovering "Gold Fish" hater because I am quite content to spend some of my time fishing for cards with Mary and enjoying her in the process.

Just don't ask me to play Candyland. I don't think I've recovered quite enough to endure it.

blog comments powered by Disqus