Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's forget the rules and have some fun

When I'm playing a game, I get very competitive. Or maybe I should say achievement-oriented. My motivation is seldom to beat another player; many times there is no other player. I want to excel at the game itself--win points, advance to a higher level, set a new personal best, grab whatever rewards the game designers have built in to keep me playing.

My grandchildren are teaching me that sometimes the point of a game is just to enjoy playing. It's a simple concept that I keep having to relearn.

I noticed it the first time we played "Busytown," a board game based on Richard Scarry illustrations. The children had chosen it as a Christmas gift for Pa because we had no preschooler board games and this looked like one we all could enjoy.

The first time we played, I spent a lot of time getting them focused, explaining rules, helping them use the spinner, etc. Later I mentioned to their mom that they hadn't seemed interested in doing the "search for clues" part of the game. "Not surprising," she said cheerfully. "They can get overwhelmed. If they're not interested in something we just skip that part for a while." In other words, let them explore the game at their own pace. Keep it fun and they'll be back for more. That was good advice. An especially nice thing about this game is that all the players are a team and everybody wins together. So if one kid prefers not to look too hard for clues and another would rather not spin for regular turns, we can each contribute what we like or what we're good at and still make a game of it.

(When I was 14 or so, my sister and I had a sleepover with some family friends. Their parents played Canasta with us. When I made a mistake in melding, the dad said no, I couldn't pick my cards back up. I had to leave them on the table and other players could use them. It was a harsh lesson in "rules are rules," but probably a timely one. Augie and Vi know that rules are absolute when it comes to crossing the street, but they can wait a while to learn that about board games.)

A while back we let the kids start playing a few games on our iPads. There's a little game called Snood that involves aiming at targets that get increasingly tricky. Eventually, if you've taken too many shots without reaching your goal, all the brightly colored little faces turn to skulls. For a long time Augie thought that meant he'd won. Now they're both getting quite good at it and they've even learned to bank shots off the sides--good use of geometry, no?

Something similar happened with Angry Birds. Both kids quickly learned to maneuver the virtual slingshot to vary the angle of attack--geometry and strategy in action. And both learned the special powers of the different birds that volunteer as slingshot fodder. Touch one while it's in flight and it speeds up, touch another and it splits into three identical birds. Two birds explode on contact with their targets, but to ViMae's delight you can blow them up with a touch of your finger. I used to say, "But you didn't knock anything down." Finally I've learned to laugh and enjoy her way of having fun.

It occurs to me that this lesson might have come in handy while I was working. Loosen the rules and make new discoveries. Find a way to get the job done but still enjoy the process. Construct projects in such a way that the whole team wins through cooperation. With any luck, Augie and Vi can use these ideas in their own lifetimes, and well before they become grandparents!  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sweet new-fashioned girl

Once upon a time, when I'd see a little girl wearing a dress like this and there seemed to be no special occasion, I would assume her to be a very quiet and ladylike child. Timid and bookish, perhaps. 

Then ViMae came along and set me straight. Ladylike when she chooses, this girl also runs and tumbles and climbs and digs in the dirt with the best of them. She is usually just a step behind her big brother Augie. And while he's in t-shirt and sweat pants, she's in a dress with a swirly skirt. Usually pink, often ankle-length. And sparkly shoes. She is a girly princess and an active child.

I was aiming for an over-the-top princess dress when I picked up this smocked corduroy dress at Once Upon a Child and glammed it up with jewels and lace. I made a shimmery, sheer overskirt, but instead of attaching it I put a ribbon on it and left it separate so she can wear it any time. It twirls very nicely, as you can see. 

The dress also works perfectly well at the park, when paired with tastefully matching pink pants. Good thing it's washable!

Recently, I bought Vi a handful of mix-and-match clothes on sale at Gymboree. On this day, she wore coordinating pieces together. But she has her own sense of style. Picking out her clothes each day, she loves to find combinations other than the original ones. She nearly always has a rationale for her choices: the greens match, or the flowers go together. Which, of course, is exactly what we say about the pieces that came together in the outfit.

One lovely morning she was in a dress that was part of the new duds, and I wanted another photo. Pa suggested she pose for me in the garden, near the bleeding hearts. So this is what she did.
This past weekend, Vi went to her daddy's grad school commencement in the afternoon and Rock the Barn, the preschool's big fund-raising party, in the evening. Two days before, I asked what she was going to wear and she answered, appropriately, "I want to wear something beautiful." Grandma Anita provided the perfect answer, making Vi this new princess dress as an early birthday gift.

It seems to me that we who worked so hard to expand the range of choices and opportunities for women can take pride in the fact that new generations are exercising those choices with ease. And style. 


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