I have a not so secret obsession with playing games. Maybe it is the Recreation major in me, but seeing how board games, card games or theatrical games can break down barriers and bond people together through shared experience always gets me jazzed.

So Sunday, when I was half asleep on the couch (see earlier post on lack of coffee) and Alex asked if I’d play dominoes with him, I roused myself with the last few ounces of energy I had and joined him. We had so much fun playing. Drew managed to keep himself entertained and out of trouble allowing us almost three hours of game playing (1 1/2 hours were made easier due to Drew’s timely nap session!). We played dominoes and then Phase 10…both were versions that weren’t quite described in the directions, but I love the challenge of adapting something to fit the developmental stage that we are currently in.

So, for example, we played “open handed” for Phase 10…that approach takes out a bit of the mystery and mental scheming, but still allowed for lots of good conversation about strategy. At one point, in the midst of a strategy conversation (example: discarding a card that would give me a 3 card set vs getting rid of something that wouldn’t be helpful for me), Alex exclaimed, “Oh sorry, Mom, I won’t do that to you!”.   I loved it…the compassion creeping through the competitive. I laughed and told him he SHOULD crush me! Win, win, win! This is not the time to be nice!

So when he later was dealing and ended up with Wild card after Wild card, I began to think he took my advice a bit too much to heart.  He got FOUR wild cards….FOUR!!!!!

It reminded me of the time when one of my fourth graders got two Yatzees during a math game time in my classroom and I was playing against her. I was screaming because I couldn’t believe it….and then she rolled a third! Right then, as I was losing it, my principal walked in. That was a shining moment for me in my teaching career, as you can imagine. {insert uncomfortable cough and red face here}

With Drew napping, I kept my emotions and competitive nature under wraps, but as you can see from these pics, he was just a little bit excited.

While playing Phase 10 today, I had an epiphany moment of sorts. Sometimes Alex can just be tough. {sorry, Buddy….if you are reading this ten years down the road, but it’s true….and it’s true for all of us, not just you}. Anyhow, he can be strong-willed, stubborn, loud, very energetic and challenging. But then I realized how nice it is to have a conversation with him. To laugh over something funny. To cook together. To lay in bed, helping him to to sleep at night, reading stories and talking about “bigger, life stuff” once in awhile, to see him create and dream and play.

And frankly, the fact that I don’t have to chase him off the coffee table, out of the dishwasher, ask him to stop eating rocks and dirt, to guess why he’s crying, or to change a poopy diaper…..well, there is something really great about that. Something hard to articulate. Suffice it to say, he’s growing up.

Yes, Drew.  Raise your hand loud and proud,

I WAS talking about your current “development”…

As an educator in my former life, watching Alex work on letter formation, the alphabet, drawing, cutting, basic stuff, well, it is just amazing. I was so struck with how much harder it was to play dominoes with him last winter than today. Today, he needed no prompting. He was making connections and figuring things out on his own. I could almost SEE his mind wheels turning.

Dominoes, circa January 2011

I really want to find joy in each stage while I am in it, not in blurry hindsight. I don’t want to be bitter, always wishing for nostalgic moments of the past, or dreading upcoming stresses of the future. Sadly, I know I emit a lot of stress, fear and complaints. Not just emit them, but artistically paint those emotions all over the people I love, settings I live in and conversations I am a part of.

So next time I am doing that, please hear me out. Even be empathetic if you lean towards that, and finally, remind me of this post. Remind me that these moments are quick and short in the scheme of life. Remind me to see the “phase” for what it is, a phase. Not a phase to be rushed to or removed from. But a gift. A chance to live in the moment, even when the moment is hard. A chance to wake up, arise, look around and be grateful.  And, I am guessing that a few wild cards will be thrown in too to make things more interesting!

One thought on “Phases

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