Busting Kids’ Boredom with a Classic Board Game

[originally appeared in “Scheir Madness” in The Dover Post, 2/4/09]

I’ve successfully postponed playing “Monopoly” with my children…until now.

It’s not that I have anything against the game. After all, who can argue with an economic set-up where rentals are $16 and the super-simplified tax system ($200 or 10%) would send the Turbo Tax staff to the bread line?

(I am glad that my utility company doesn’t figure up my bill based on ten times the roll of the dice, though. That does seem kind of random.)

The thing that’s kept me away from “Monopoly” for all these years has nothing at all to do with the game. It’s more my children’s not-so-nice, but ever-evolving, game-playing temperaments.

I can’t forget many a “Candyland” game where tears ran and nostrils flared over one lost turn in the Molasses Swamp. “Chutes and Ladders” wasn’t much better, especially when one kid managed to take the ladder to square 100 in three turns, five times in a row, while the other kid’s self-esteem floundered despite receiving the dubious, mother-invented honor of “second winner.”

To their credit, my children have gotten better over the years. On holidays and vacations, we manage to get through a couple of rounds of “Sorry,” but, admittedly, this involves delicate negotiations (as in “Please don’t send me back to home base. Please!”) and some frank confrontations (as in “It doesn’t matter what you say, you are so NOT sorry!!!).

Multiply that level of conflict over the time it takes to bankrupt everybody else on the “Monopoly” board, and you’ll have a living, breathing validation of Jerry Seinfeld’s famous observation, “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.”

But last week, all figurative planets aligned to provide the perfect conditions for my first go at family “Monopoly”—that would be a back-to-back sick day/snow day.

The long part of a sick day comes when symptoms have waned, TV’s been watched, and the patient becomes a little listless and restless. This is the perfect time for a board game, if, of course, you’re willing to risk your personal health and well-being by touching the dice that the sickie has just touched (and blown on for luck). It’s also the perfect time to slather the hand sanitizer and hope that whatever keeps the bird flu contained to our feathered friends also keeps kid germs out of the over-20 set.

The sick day game was a friendly one, in which I went to jail three times (possibly more) and somehow depleted my resources to the point that whenever my daughter paid me rent, she told me to keep the change.

The next day, in our “Monopoly: Snow Day Edition,” my son was equally compassionate, giving me a bye on my taxes when his sister was in the bathroom. He wasn’t so nice when I landed on Park Place, though; with his house that was $175 in rent, and believe me, he collected every penny.

It’s disturbing to know that my child would help me commit tax evasion, while at the same time ripping me off royally. Then again, it’s only a game.

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