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.
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.
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|
"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.