Friday, January 29, 2010

Playing to Win or Just Plain Playing?

It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game (for some reason, I can't find the originator of that quote... probably a loser).  We have been told this little gem since we were tiny.  And, though, I do believe this statement has a lot of merit... I really think it only applies when you are a kid.  That's not to say that being a good sport is not important when you get older.  It's just to say that sometimes in life it's just is important to "win" as it is to play well.

If you don't believe my above statement to be true, let's go do some interviews with my Dallas Cowboys (who got stomped in the playoffs a few weekends ago) or my Tennessee Titans (who didn't even make the playoffs).  I'm sure you will never hear: "Well... It really doesn't matter what the score was.  What was important is that we were great sports when we got stomped."  That person would be off the team that evening (as well as be drug tested before being allowed back into the league).  But I would only assume they would take it in stride... being a good sport and all.

Now... I say all of that to ask this question.  When is it OK to start transitioning your kids from gracious losers to even MORE gracious winners?  There's nothing wrong with playing to win.  I do it all of the time.  And I'm proud of it!  If I'm playing against you in something, and the goal is to win, then I plan to beat you.  Now, I'm not one of those that must win at all costs.  But if I'm playing against you, you'd better bring it!

When we have family night at the house there is usually some game going on.  We are either playing the Wii (Sports, Fit, Mario Party) or playing Monopoly (Classic, Deluxe, Planet Earth) or Uno (uh... just Uno).  Just to be honest here... I usually win.  Why?  Because I'm the only one playing that sits at the table with the idea that WINNING is the first goal (having fun comes in at a close second).  I think this is part of the male psyche or something.

When I'm playing Monopoly I don't just want Boardwalk and Park Place.  I want those little scrubby purple places too (Baltic and Mediterranean).  And if I could, I would buy the jail and charge people to visit AND to stay there (no free rides here).  Speaking of free... FREE PARKING????  What is that?  I need that spot for a parking garage for all of the hotels I own.  And I hide my money too.  You don't need to know how much money I have.  You just need to make sure you have enough to pay me when you land on my railroads.  I want to own the trains AND the tracks!  You see my point.  And if I don't win, I just spent 2 hours donating to someone else's happy dance.

Now, my wife is better at this stuff than me.  So I usually let her talk to kids about competition.  There are a lot of times I want to tell my oldest that it is OK to strive to be the best at gymnastics.  But it would probably come out something like, "Do you even know what a vault is?  I know you can do better than that!"  I want to tell my 4-year old that she should really focus on getting better at Wii Golf so she has a chance to beat me next time.  That's a much better approach than telling her, "In YO face!!!" every time I get a birdie (not that I would EVER do ANYTHING like that.  She's 4).  And the 1-year old...  We don't compete against each other in many things but if we did... I'm sure there are a million things I would have to hold back from saying as well (even though it wouldn't hurt to give her a baby "in yo face" every now and then).

I don't want to make it sound like my wife is not competitive.  She just holds it in front of the kids better. The next time you see my wife walking funny, ask her why her back is hurting.  And if she tells you anything less than she was trying to (unsuccessfully) beat my Hula Hoop record in Wii Fit then she is lying!!!  And I can't tell you how many times she has reminded me that she won her first season playing in my Fantasy Football league.  I'm sure I won't ever hear the end of that (or that her trophy is much bigger than mine (I'm not even going there)).  So she has her moments too.  It's just that her "holding back" skills are better when it comes to the kids.  So I guess there IS something she can beat me in (Hee, Hee - Hula Hoop anyone?).

I do think, however, it is time I start teaching my kids that winning IS important as well. I want to be a parent that explains to my daughters that it's ok to be a happy, humble loser but 10 times better to be a happy, humble winner.  I want to be a proud papa when my daughters are giving their valedictory address at their top universities because they understood the value of winning.  Whether we like it or not, life is a competition.  Somebody wins and somebody loses.  And if you are content with being content then life will be fine.  But if you are going to play against me in the game of life... you'd better bring it!

Next post will be about my life-changing game against my 4-year old playing the Wii Bowling (she brought it).

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Houston... Wii have a problem

I have done a lot of hard things in my life.  I had to stand up to the neighborhood bullies (in the neighborhood I grew up in there were several (and I think they worked in shifts to make sure every hour was covered)).  I learned how to divide and multiply fractions (a skill that is coming in handy when helping my oldest with her homework).  I have even had to be in the room while my wife was giving birth. (Side note on the child birth experience... That is one thing that looks COMPLETELY different on TV than it is in real life.  Don't get me wrong... it is a beautiful and wonderful thing... in theory.  I'm just gonna leave it at that.)

But I survived all of those and many more things with only minor scars (minus the whole birthin' thing.  It takes a lifetime to measure the full effects of this one). I have even learned to take some of the proverbial lemons and make some proverbial lemonade.  And in some cases, I have taken the lemons, sliced them up a squeezed them into some much nicer drinks!  Those cases are rare but they do happen.

Now more recently, I have undertaken something that, at first glance, I thought was going to be easy.  I was mistaken to the nth degree.  I have 2 equations for you: E=MC(squared) (I would have put the little 2 in the correct position but apparently the equation is too tough even for and the other equation is HB+Sy@b+Sy@f+LGoB=X.

The first one is Einstein's famous Mass-Energy Equivalence theory.  Basically, the theory states that Energy (E) is the product of Mass (M) times ((the Speed of Light (C) times the Speed of Light (C)) in a vacuum).  Now see how easy that was?  And even if you don't get it you will soon get the point to what I am writing about.  You wouldn't think of trying to explain this equation to a 4-year old.  But I promise you I would have had more luck explaining THAT to the 4-year old than the second equation.

Here is the second equation explained: HB+S@b+S@f+LGoB=X.  (It's a lot scarier on paper than it is in real life.)  That stands for Hold the B-button + Swing your arm back + Swing your arm forward + Let Go of the B-button = Strike.  For those that don't have a Wii, that is the simple formula for rolling the ball in Wii Bowling.  At least I thought it was simple until I tried to get my 4-year old to understand it.

We had a blast with the boxing game.  Just punch left and right as fast as you can.  We even had fun with the baseball game.  All you do is swing your arm to throw and swing your arm to swing.  She didn't hit the ball, BUT WHO CARES!?!  It was fun.  Wii laughed.  Wii played. Wii enjoyed ourselves... until...

Wii Bowling!!!  There was a lot of WHOOMP!  That's the sound of the ball not being "rolled" properly.  There was a lot of "I can't do it, daddy!" That's the sound of a 4-year old getting frustrated because she keeps getting the WHOOMP sound.  Then came a lot of "Let's just play something else!"  That's the sound of daddy giving up on the second equation because he is tired of hearing the 4-year old say she can't do it when she keeps WHOOMP sound (OVER and OVER and OVER again)!

Now I did my due diligence.  I tried every possible way to explain how the bowling thing works.  It just wasn't sinking in.  She had the swinging arm part just fine.  It was that stupid B-button!  It was digging grooves in both of our souls (for different reasons, of course).  My only solution to this problem was to hold her hand while she was bowling.  This made her go all Exorcist on me.  She couldn't understand why I was showing her how to swing her arm.  She had that part.  But I was trying to explain to her that I had to move her arm so "Wii" could press and let go of the B-button at the right time.

Finally, that sank in.  Wii were bowling in no time flat.  A strike here.  A spare there.  It was great.  But this created another problem.  She decided that she wouldn't ever try on her own.  I had unknowingly become her right arm. So when I wouldn't help her there were even MORE "I can't do it" daddies than ever before.  Daddy had to help her or this B-Button would defeat her.

This story has a happy ending (sorta).  We defeated the evil B-button!  It took a while but the deed was done.  I would like to think we were better people because it but in the end it was just a game on the Wii.  For some reason, however, I personally feel that I have given her another tool to be successful in life (she can add that lesson to THIS one as well as THIS OTHER one).  It's like teaching her to tie her shoes... only electronically... and with a Wiimote.  OK. It's not really like teaching her to tie her shoes but this is my moment.  You look at it how you choose to.  But in the end she will never be afraid of the B-button or any other button for that matter.  And I will always be able to look back at this shared moment and say that Wii did it.

But next time... I'm teaching her physics.  It has no B-button.