Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Candy Land of the Lost

"That's life. That's what people say. You're riding high in April; shot down in May." -Frank Sinatra

Candy Land is a necesary rite of passage, and at the same time a form of torture. Quite simply, it is the bane of our parental existence.

Why, Hasbro? Why do you do this to us? Why do you move us painfully, slowly up that rainbow spiral board only four or five spaces at a time? (If we're lucky.) Then, like a punch in the stomach, allow one of our opponents to draw the card that lands them on Chocolate Mountain, leaving us way behind in Gummy Hills? Curse you, Hasbro.

To make matters worse, the competitor in us still wants to win, even though the only skill required to play this game is the ability to identify colors. That is when we realize our only shot is to actually root for our four year-old daughter to draw a card that sends her far enough backwards that gives us a chance at victory.

It's a double-edged sword. Because if your child is lucky enough to hit the lottery and draw that card to send her to the top, she'll be happy. But God forbid if it's you that hits the lottery. And heaven help you if your child is the one sent backwards.

So while we sit there silently hoping for a lucky card, eyes glazed from the mind-numbing boredom, you manage to close the gap. Only to get stuck in Licorice Swamp on your way back to respectability.
Subtly Un-Sweet 

This is the dance I found my green gingerbread piece doing with the Peanut's blue counterpart one rainy afternoon. But there was an anomaly. We were both closing in on Candy Castle, and the blackjack junkie in me realized neither of us had drawn one of the special cards. They were bound to come up. And sure enough, soon thereafter, I was sent packing to Ice Cream Falls. I made a big spectacle of myself.  A big, loud, "Oh, no... boohoohoo." Even fake crying.

Peanut came over to me, grabbed my face in her hands and kissed me on the cheek. She assured me it would be alright. "All you have to do is pick the colors and make your way back up," she said. As if it were that simple. Easy for her to say; she was about to win. One day she will understand the statistic improbability of my victory after that devastating turn of events.

When Peanut disavowed cupcakes
Three turns later, the Peanut was sent packing as well. All the way down to Cupcake Commons. Now she was beside herself. For real. She stormed off into her playroom.. I reminded her of the reassurance she had given me just two minutes before. Her answer: "I don't like cupcakes."

"You don't like cupcakes?!"

"No. I like cupcakes. I just don't want to play anymore."

I gave her my best pep talk. "We don't quit," I told her. "When things don't go our way, we find a way to make it better."

I took this time out to go to the bathroom. I said when I came out, I wanted her back at the game ready to play again.

She was. She told me she had picked her next card. Magically, it was the popsicle card that brought her right back up near the top of the board. Had she cheated? The thought immediately crossed my mind. Could she possibly be that cunning? And dishonest? My angel? Or were we just due for a run of special candy cards?

I will honestly never know the truth. I didn't even bring it up. But here's why I had my suspicions: Because during a game of Candy Land with my mom, I did something similar when I was the Peanut's age. Maybe a little older. So it's in her blood. Wanting to win at all costs. Being a bad loser.

To this day, I feel guilty about it. The memory of my mom's genuine (albeit over the top) reaction is etched in my brain. Did she know and just play along? Perhaps if the Peanut did in fact cheat, she feels the same way now that I did then. And will still feel the same way 30 years from now.

I will say this about Candy Land: It does teach us that life isn't fair. That no matter how hard you try, and despite your best effort, you could still be sent to the back of the line even if you didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes there isn't an explanation that will make you feel better. That's life.

Do cheaters win? Sure they do. But if they're worth a damn, they feel really crappy about it. The important thing is when your turn comes up again, you start that slow climb back up that mountain.


  1. Oh I LOVE Candy Land! I didn't remember the unfairness from my childhood but my last job was at a daycare center and we had that game in our "classroom"... it taught me about the sore losers in my class. Who knew CUPCAKES could be so cruel?!

    This was a really great post.

    For Love of Cupcakes

  2. You've just validated matter how badly you tell yourself you're just playing for the kids; there's always that little part of me that still NEEDS to win, which just makes me feel guilty. Fortunately, my daughter is just obsessed with the blue gumdrop card - she doesn't care if she wins or loses as long as she gets that gumdrop JUST ONCE! Even if it sends her back on the board, she just wants the gumdrop - it's the whole game for her. So, I can "win" and revel in my empty success while she takes the gumdrop card to bed with her and puts it under her pillow like a priceless treasure.

    And then I feel silly for caring so much about winning because my 4-yr-old already knows more about the 'reward of the journey' than I do LOL!

    Just one more of those times where she teaches me more than I teach her


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