How to Win The Game of Life

LIFE IMG_4516My family has started a new tradition.  We have decided to turn Wednesdays into Family Fun night.  We started last night.   We decided we are going to take good old Milton Bradley’s suggestion and have a family fun night on Wednesdays and start playing board games.

I was first inspired a week ago when playing a vicious, okay scratch that, mildly competitive game of Double Twelve Dominoes – The Mexican Train Version with the ladies from my bible study group.   There is nothing like playing a great game around a table with fun people, food, coffee and tea, laughter, and a community quest to learn something new and if luck has it, to WIN!

So when my seven year old son requested we play the game of LIFE last night, I was all in!  I made dinner speedy quick and cleared the table lightening fast after we finished eating.  That is to say, I moved the dirty dishes and miscellaneous other clutter to the counter to deal with later.

My husband, young son and I pulled the game of LIFE out of the box and started setting up.  I fanned out the cards.  We chose our careers.  We all decided to skip college as we couldn’t find how starting out with borrowed money would get us a higher paying salary which was basically luck of the draw anyway.   We spun the dial and off we went.

I was a policeperson, my husband was an artist, my adult son was a computer programmer, and my youngest son was an entertainer.  Not so much different than our real life actually.  The only difference is that in real life my husband is a mechanic, but even that requires a modicum of creativity to be able to repair cars when car parts or cars themselves are no longer manufactured.

I landed on the first PAYDAY.  I was elated to have an annual salary of ninety grand.  Which if moms were actually compensated in real life for policing a busy household, I would say this is adequate at best.    We made our way around the board collecting our salaries multiple times, picking up LIFE cards, paying both frivolous and necessary bills, and chastising one another for memory lapses over whose turn it was.  My oldest son said we could just play for him as he had important games in real life he had to play on the Wii.  So entertainer-boy  just spun the dial for computer geek-man and moved his box-like van around the board, and basically made every decision for him.

My husband, being the artist that he was and is, had an annual salary of twenty grand and took a loan out for a $200,000 mortgage.  Very quickly he landed a wife, a kid, then a set of twins, and then another kid.  Figures.  We all know people like that.  I told my young son he’d probably be a “drain on the system” before too much longer at the rate he was accruing kids and a high-falutin’ lifestyle on a pauper’s salary.

I could not have been more wrong.  After two paydays, he got the card that said “exchange salary” with any other player.   Of course he picked me.  So there I was for the rest of the long drawn out game stuck at a paltry $20,000 a year salary with 4 kids of my own, a blue husband who refuses to speak to me, and an uncanny knack for landing on every known expense imaginable.  Sigh!  It’s amazing how the parables of sports and games so mirrors our real life!

About ninety percent through our game, my real husband SERIOUSLY asked my real kids and I if he could trade his kids in for cash; he had so dang many of them—they had already spilled out of his six-slotted car and tumbled onto the highway of LIFE several times.    This from the same man whose first wife had previously fallen out of his dilapidated artist’s van into the Grand Canyon (the kitchen floor) upon which he had said, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll just get another one!”

“Seriously?”  I asked.  “Yeah!  Check the rules” he insisted.   For some weird reason I just started laughing and couldn’t stop.  It’s that absurd moment in LIFE and in real life where someone says something so ridiculous you just fall out on the floor wondering how did your brain get wired like this?  But of course, who amongst us hasn’t wished at some point we could’ve traded our kids in for a lump sum payout on any given teenage hormonal day?

My young son got to the Millionaire Estates first because he had mysteriously spun tens almost the entire game.  His spin kept “not taking” except for when it consistently scored a ten.  Throughout the game he’d been entrusted to not lose his fortunes when paying bills and acquiring money in tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But for him the best part was at the end.

He quickly mastered the art of skip-counting by half-millions even though he often claims his daily first grade homework of skip counting by fives or tens is just too stressful.  Sure it is!  If you’re not getting paid to do it.   He counted and handled LIFE money the way politicians handle our money The game of LIFE is always more fun when playing with OPM (other people’s moolah!) to accomplish your goals; the results are secondary to the joy of spending it.   Like GAO accounting procedures, it’s not even worth counting if it isn’t first followed by at least six zeroes.

At the end of the game, we all experienced temporary happiness as we counted our stash:   a million, a million five hundred, a million seven hundred fifty etc.  Perhaps that may be the closest we ever get to counting numbers that high related to real life finances.    At the end of the game, my husband “won” but only by five thousand dollars.  My little boy had two million, seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars.  And hubby had exactly that plus one extra five thousand dollar bill.  Just one wrong move somewhere probably cost my son the game. 

Towards the end, he once spun the dial on my turn before I had a chance to see what number I had spun.  “HEYYYYY!” I shouted, “Watch it!  That can change the whole outcome of the game!”  And indeed it did.  For the next ten turns (I’m NOT kidding here) I landed on every expense known to exist.   I drifted from one crisis to the next railing against the unfairness of the greedy rich just inches away from me.    I had my turns skipped multiple times and the rest of my family inherited all the LIFE cards while I got nothing.   I lost.  Big time!  And then when it was all over, I reread the rules just in case we had missed anything.

We did.  I wanted to cry foul but it was too late.  In LIFE and in life, there are no do-overs.  Since I was the policeperson, I had forgotten to collect $10,000 every time a certain someone had spun a ten.  That alone would have given me an extra hundred grand no doubt.  I had forgotten to plan for my future and buy stock, as did every one else.  My oldest son lost almost as spectacularly as I did, perhaps because he played by proxy and had allowed a seven year old to represent him.  You can’t win if you don’t play the game. 

Finally, as the game ended and reality beckoned with dirty dishes waiting and teeth that need brushing and jammies that needed filling, I realized I had finally spent my most valuable currency very wisely after all:

TIME

    In the end all the money we had tried so desperately to accumulate during the game of LIFE just got put back in the box.  It was all meaningless.  But the time we had spent laughing, competing, journeying across the land, and just being a family?  Well that was the best night we had spent in a long time.  These are the moments that pay eternal dividends.  And that you can bank on!

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