The wee ones and I enjoy playing board games. This week, they discovered the Game of LIFE that I had uncovered while unpacking more boxes. It was the version I’ve had since I was a kid, and they wanted to play it, so of course I carved out some time to enjoy a game (or two) with them.
I hadn’t played it in years, which meant that although I remembered in general how to play, I definitely needed a refresher course in the rules. I had also forgotten that apparently all our cars disappeared somewhere along the way. Interestingly, the cars are sort of a key component to the game, and I have no idea how all cars disappeared from the margarine tub we used as game piece storage while there were “people” still attached to the original plastic that had never been used.
All was not lost. Fortunately, I’m creative and we found some cross between moon sand and silly putty in Mister Man’s room. I separated it out into three pieces and fashioned them into various shapes to hold our families. Because it will only take two – maybe three – turns for me to forget which of the three circles is mine. Nope, I’m smarter than that (sometimes). I was the triangle this time around. Little Miss was the only circle.
Our other challenge was the mysterious disappearance of much of the paper money from the game. I didn’t have enough to even give change for purchasing auto insurance at the beginning of the game. Rather than trying to remember who owed the bank how much (when I quickly realized how few bills we had over $50,000), we got creative and instead each kept our own bank on pads of paper. Great math skill practice and a win all around, right?
Finally we started the game, and I knew It was going to be ugly. Lucky me, I landed on doctor and enjoyed a salary of $50,000 throughout the game. Little Miss and Mister Man weren’t quite so lucky. Little Miss apparently couldn’t’ find a job and ended up with a university degree making a paltry $16,000 while Mister Man became a journalist earning $24,000 per pay day.
And thus ensued a great conversation with the wee ones about the importance of choosing a major in college that will get you an actual job.
On my second spin, I discovered uranium and was another $200,000 richer. It was quite apparent that the wee ones were going to be crushed, but there are some great (ahem, pun intended) life lessons in the game, so even though Mister Man immediately wanted to know if he could just quit, we kept going.
Because we had the unique cars, our families were not necessarily sitting in the most traditional spots. Mister Man thought it was hilarious that he had his family doing handstands while driving the car by placing them upsidedown. Until, of course he landed on the space where he lost his auto insurance for reckless driving. Little Miss and I found a sweet sense of irony in that.
The game didn’t necessary go as I had anticipated. Though both the wee ones struggled for money early in the game, having to borrow money from the bank (at exorbitant interest rates – really, $1,000 interest for every $20,000 you borrow?) to pay for the unexpected expenses that cropped up, Little Miss quickly left her life of poverty behind.
I’m pretty sure that she landed on every revenge spot on the board, allowing her to sue me repeatedly and collect $200,000 in damages each and every time. She won the lottery. She landed on the Lucky Day spot almost every time and won an additional $300,000 twice by spinning the number she’d chosen to gamble on. She could do no wrong, never once landing on spots that cost her unexpected large amounts of money. Though she had purchased auto insurance early in the game, she eschewed fire and life insurance later, though she purchased stock that generally went up whenever she played the market.
Mister Man was more cautious. Though he was “just” a journalist, he made sure to purchase all his insurance options and stock. He had two children, a boy and a girl, and apparently lived the ideal American life (crazy driving excepted). Yet somehow, he was the one who inherited both an uncle’s skunk farm and another relative’s 15 cats, both of which were expensive to get rid of. Whenever he played the stock market, he lost $60,000. Though he tried to do everything right, luck was against him, and boy was he frustrated.
By the end of the game, he had barely scraped together any savings. While I had sailed through the game and patiently awaited everyone while sitting in the millionaire spot (and collecting $24,000 every time someone rolled a 4, thank you very much), Mister Man had to do the desperate spin of the wheel in an attempt to become a tycoon because he had nowhere near the wealth required. Not surprisingly, he ended up bankrupt.
And my daughter who had a university degree but couldn’t find a real job? She’s the proof that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. She managed to sail through life with only sunshine and rainbows. She earned her wealth through luck rather than any skill, merely by the random squares where she landed – stealing wealth from me by repeatedly suing me and happily winning money by chance.
I still won the game, but not by nearly as much as I had smugly anticipated two turns in. She gave me (ahem, apologies again) a run for my money. As I put the game away after they’d gone to bed that night, I shook my head, hoping that they both will make smarter choices in the lives they choose to lead outside the game. No one will ever be as lucky as she was, and Mister Man’s inability to set aside his jealousy made him miserable.
Fortunately, we played again yesterday. I was a lawyer this time, again with a beautiful $50,000 salary. Little Miss had a step up as the journalist, while Mister Man was the doctor. And I’m still not sure how he did it, but he smoked me with a total into the $3 million range. Not surprisingly, he was much happier.
And what a great reminder of how readily life and turn on a dime.