A few weeks ago, I shared The Longest Shortest Time's excellent episode "How to Parent Like a Clown," which addresses, among the other things, how to get your kids to do what you want without them realizing it. During these past weeks of upheaval for our family (surgery for kiddo, an out-of-state move, bad sprain for my other half), we've made "finding the game" our mantra. Can't get the post-op kid to stop moving? Build felt train tracks around him on the couch. Can't get the well-healing kid to stop unpacking all the glassware? Have him build a paper mountain. Can't get the now-faster-moving-than-you kid to get out of the way of incoming boxes? Challenge him to a race up the stairs that you know you can't win.
We've been feeling pretty good about our improved ability to find the game. But last weekend, when scoping out our new grocery store, we got schooled.
We were watching a woman pushing a cart toward the back of the store, with one girl in the front and another trailing behind. Both girls looked tired of this errand. She looked at them and issued a challenge: "Who can find the toothpaste first?" The girl on foot bounced down the aisle and the girl in the cart turned back and forth as far as it would allow. The mom cackled "Ha ha! I can read!" and sprinted for the personal care aisle.
My husband and I stopped, stunned at how masterfully she'd turned the trip around. When we caught up to them later, I couldn't resist complimenting the mom: "That game was inspired."
The older girl looked up. "What game?"
The mom smiled at me and then looked at the girls--"Oh, nothing"--and walked away.
And so I learned a second important lesson about finding the game: It's not a game if you say it's a game.