My daughter recently has acquired enough interest and skill to be able to play board games like Candy Land and Uncle Wiggily. We play just about every day, Candy Land being her favorite and Uncle Wiggily being mine.
She becomes intensely focused on winning and frequently has outbursts of temper if she loses a game. Then she tries all methods to win: trying and stack the deck, or changing the rules, or skipping spaces. I have spent a significant amount of time teaching her that it's fun just to play a game together, that you never know what will happen in a game, and that it's good sportsmanship to play fair, etc., etc.
Well, yesterday we were playing Candy Land. I kept winning over and over and over. Addie was taking it like a champ. She really kept it together, sighing when she would lose, but for the most part playing fair and being pleasant.
I really wanted her patience to pay off. I wanted her tolerance to be rewarded by a hard-won victory, fair-and-square. But her win never came. She put on a brave face, but I knew she was so disappointed.
On our last game, I thought she was going to pull it off. I was on the home stretch and she had just pulled the Princess Frostine card, putting her one space behind me. We were keeping pace down the straightaway. Then I pulled two doubles in a row, which put me three spaces from the finish. Addie kept pulling singles. I knew if she got one more double card, she'd make it to the finish for a win. I was on orange and was hoping for a single green or red, which would give her an extra turn. But as I began to pick up the next card, I saw it was a double. If I picked up that card, I'd win again...I paused and Addie said, "Come on, Mom, pick it up." Instead of taking the top card, I picked the third one down, a single red and took my turn. Addie picked the card I should have gotten and won the game. She was so happy! She repeated some of the phrases that I had used on her over the last months, "See, Mom? You just never know! It's fun to just play!"
I felt a teeny bit guilty that I had stacked the deck in her favor. After all my talk about playing fair and someone has to win and someone has to lose and how it's just nice to play a game together...I wanted her to win so badly that I cheated.
It is my hope that she didn't notice. I did it very quickly and we were talking of other things at the time, but I think she knows what I did. Was the reward of her being momentarily happy worth the potential "lesson" that cheating is okay? Or that she thinks she can't win on her own merits, that she can only win if someone rolls over for her?
Certainly this isn't the biggest parenting dilemma that I've faced, or will face, by a longshot. But, it's a dilemma nonetheless. Not even hindsight is giving me 20/20 this time. *sigh*