The other day my mother taught my 5 year old how to play the well known card game War. For those of you unfamiliar with War, it’s a game of chance. The players both get a stack of card and they simultaneously lay they them out one by one. Whoever has the high card wins. Eventually my mother got up to put dinner in the oven and do a few other things. When she came back she started playing with him again…and losing. Okay, she managed to pull out a few high cards but for the most part she was dropping twos and fours or as my son has come to call them, “junk cards.” When she commented about her change in luck he started giggling uncontrollably. Yes, my son had gone through his grandmother’s cards and traded her high ones for his low ones. He did leave her with a few high cards so she wouldn't catch on too fast.
She explained to him that cheating was never funny or acceptable and I of course reinforced that message. But in the back of my mind was a little voice screaming “Vegas baby!”
Now before you all go calling CPS let me just say that I will never ask my son to rig a poker game for me. But I can’t help but be a little impressed by the sophisticated thinking he applied to his deviance.
It’s expected that we be proud of our children when they bring home a high mark or make an effort to share their toys but sometimes our kids will break a rule so skillfully that we can’t help but think “Damn! That was smooth!”
Of course we shouldn’t say the words out loud. We want them to learn good moral values but I think that it would be a mistake to totally overlook the creativity applied to whatever stunt they pulled. After all, creativity is a good thing. We just want them to learn to use their mental powers for good, not evil.
A friend and fellow author Alina Adams once pointed out that Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes was a very misunderstood kid. Clearly all his antics pointed to his immense creativity and superior intellectual abilities. And you know what? She’s right. Calvin was brilliant and if the world was a fair place his parents would have stopped rolling their eyes and started pushing to get him in a gifted education program.
So stop feeling guilty about the nagging sense of pride you experience when your kid pulls one over on his teacher. With the help of a good upbringing he’s more likely to grow up to be a…oh, let’s say…murder mystery novelist than a con-artist. And if, God forbid, he does embrace a life of crime at least he won’t be a stupid criminal—nobody wants to raise one of those.
Sex, Murder And A Double Latte---May 2005