Thursday, July 24, 2008

pumpkin eater

Bug and I have had a lot of time together this week while Pook attended his Magic Art Camp (which he's loving). I've tried to give him attention, but I'm failing.

First I'm asked to follow him into the World of Pretend. I don't do it very well: "This is how we're going to do it." "No, you're doing it wrong." "You're gonna do this." "No, you do it like this." "You say, 'x' and then I'll say 'y' and then you say 'z'." "No, not like that." Agh! I try to emphasize that everyone's pretend is good, even if it is different. But I find myself arguing with him. "Well this Mama Bear is going to do it that way." You just can't feel mature when you're arguing about the roles of the pretend bears. (Plus I don't seem to be quite as comfortable in my cave as I must have been at a younger age.)

I don't last long playing pretend. Instead I pull out a stack of puzzles he's never given much attention. Pook and I spent a lot of time on puzzles back when I was either pregnant with Bug or taking care of the Baby Bug. Now they gather dust. I want to sort out the ones that are too easy by doing all of them together. Not gonna happen. I sort them myself while I try to fake Pretend.

I dig through games for the same reason. Pook plays them some but Bug... not so much. I offer my time playing a game. He says, "How about 'Hi Ho Cherry-O'?" (blech). I suggest a different game. He counters with yet another I dislike, but since this one is newish I go ahead. It plays like Candy Land but isn't well designed. The characters are bigger than the colored squares and get bumped around a lot. I also don't know the board as well as Candy Land and I can't stack the deck to get it over with quickly. (You mean you've never tried to stack the deck in that game? Endless.) We get sent back to the early parts of the path many times. I try to hide those cards under the pile when I reshuffle. Then I get stuck on a spot requiring me to draw a pink to be released. I stay there for several hours while Bug giggles at my expense. I try to make it silly and dramatic. I finally get out and draw a double red. I only see one red square ahead of me so I say so. He corrects me, "Yeah there is. There's a red there too. Oh. Um, no it isn't. Actually, you can't do that." He was correct, there was a second red-- the finish line. Only now he realizes that I'm going to win, so he is quickly trying to cover his steps. He's very upset that I'm about to win. When I stop playing, he takes the attitude that I quit before he could win.

I attempt to play another game. He draws a card he doesn't like and tries to return it to the pile for one he might prefer. Only, he's looking through his lashes to see if I'm watching. If he'd really been ignorant of the fact that he was cheating, I could ignore it too. But he knows he's cheating. I ask him to only take the top card, pretending I think it was an accident. "I did!" he insists. I press on, as gently as I can, but ultimately I refuse to continue playing the game.

I am an adult. (Must remind oneself.) The losing part isn't a problem. The winning isn't particularly exciting. However, I'm not willing to allow him to cheat himself out of losing. Losing is good for the soul. Being bossy is annoying. Telling me my pretend is wrong is annoying. Cheating, and lying about the cheating, is annoying me.

He's four. He is old enough to understand that losing just happens. He is old enough to be required to play by the rules. He is old enough to learn that a consequence of cheating is angering the other players. We point out that even the professional baseball players only hit a third of the balls. We never tease a loser. We don't gloat when we win. But winning has become everything. Being right has become the only goal. If I thought simply maturing would solve this problem, I wouldn't worry about it. But I suspect Bug's issue will only intensify. And that worries me.

1 comment:

  1. We went through this with AJ too -- I think most kids do this. It's part wanting to win and part wanting to know what you can get away with. AJ actually still gets upset when he loses sometimes, but he no longer cheats (although sometimes he attempts to negotiate a change of rules). What worked for us was appealing to his innate sense of fairness. Telling him not to cheat was part of it, but telling him that when he cheated I got to cheat too usually stopped it. He started to understand that the problem was not just that he was cheating, but that he was being unfair to the other player. And somehow, that worked better, for him anyway.