We are playing Zingo. It is a game where you pull two small number squares from a card holder and match them to your game card. Similar to bingo, the winner yells “Zingo!” when their card is filled up.
My son is pulling the plastic yellow number tiles from the card holder. We both have filled up our card except for the number “two,” so I tell him, “Hey, we both need the number two—you better be ready.”
A few cards later, he pulls the number two. I give him a few seconds to yell out “two.” But when he reaches to pull the card holder, I grab the number two tile, put it on my card and yell out “Zingo!”
My yell, I must admit, had a certain level of exhuberant excitement, and so I look at my son to see his reaction. His reaction is instantaneous.
He grabs my game card, flings it and the number tiles up in the air and very quickly moves the card holder back and forth to find a number two. Then, he places it on his card and yells out, “Zingo…I win!”
Watching the scene unfold, I was amazed at his determined focus to find the number two. If only his easily distracted mind could learn to such focus cleaning his room or putting on his pajamas.
My first reaction was a sudden flash of anger at seeing the yellow tiles scattered across his bedroom floor. I had just supervised him cleaning his room, and every parent knows how difficult this can be for a five-year-old.
I also rued that the little yellow tiles representated a similar potential fate to most of his board games pieces. That is to say, they would be forever seperated from the game board and, therefore, render the game useless.
My son lacks organizational skills, and though this falls under my responsibity to teach him, I just want to play a game with him without having to search for a missing pience.
My second reaction was acceptance. I know this moment is related to his capacity to go from calm to angry in one second, and I am learning to accept my son for where he is in his development.
Nevertheless, I could not help but feeling like this was a significant “life lesson” for him, and that I had to seize it upon it as a father-son teachable moment.
“No, I won.”
I realized this wasn’t one of our races to the front door from the park. Those races where the parent plays the role of Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters and lets their child win every time.
So I reviewed what had just transpired, explaining that I filled up my number card first and was the first one to yell “Zingo.” It made perfect sense to me, but I know this doesn’t mean it made sense to him.
Looking at his face, I could tell he thought was the winner because he flung my game pieces, found the number two, place it on his game card and declared himself the winner.
Of course, he knows I won or he wouldn’t have flung my pieces.
But still in his mind, I could tell believed he has won. We all do this in our mind, too. We choose to believe the beautiful lie rather than accept the ugly truth.
We all rationalize and justify wrong behaviors to avoid facing the truth. We justify our wrong behaviors by making alibis and excuses, saying “That’s just who I am.”
“It’s okay if you don’t win every time,” I say, trying to bring perspective to his world. ”But you can’t throw the game pieces when you don’t win. Instead, you can congratulate the winner.”
It’s difficult to know if he absorbs my lesson especially when he just received five dollars under his pillow a few nights ago from losing his first tooth ago.
I am sure there will be bigger fish to fry than getting his to accept he lost a game of Zingo…like it’s always better to tell the ugly truth than a beautiful lie.
My own tendency to avoid dealing with the truth is a fact that I’ve only come to embrace recently, and this is one habit I want to be sure he doesn’t develop from a young age.
I hope my son gets this lesson: It’s okay if you don’t win every time and it’s not acceptable to throw your game pieces. That’s the father-son lesson for today.