The Delicate Art of Losing


There it was, right in front of me, a double jump which would also earn me a King. My eight year old grandson, Jack, had made an unusually poor, rushed move. My dilemma is do I tell him?

Susan K. Perry, social psychologist, writing on states, “If your child knows that you’re changing the rules for them, you are teaching them that following the rules is not as important as winning.”

Oh sure, Ms. Perry, I know that in theory you may be right, but, look at that sweet, trusting face.

Jack and I are playing our traditional game of checkers on a faded board painted on the top of an old whisky barrel in front of an antique store. We are in Apex, North Carolina where he, and his sister, Molly, live with our daughter, Katy. Jack was only four when we discovered this fun way to pass the time while the women explored the shops on Main Street. Back then “throwing” the game was easy, he was too young to be suspicious of any purposely bad strategy on my part.

According to Michele Bora, Ed.D, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions , “The reason you let them win is so that you can teach them how to lose!”

Here’s my problem, Ms. Bora, Jack is now starting to get very good at checkers. These days it requires much less manipulation on my part to make certain I see his wide, joyous smile when he captures my last piece. In this instance, I choose a compromise position. I only jump one of his pieces ignoring the second move.

He quickly recovers and says, “Gramps, you missed a double jump!”

I move subtly into teaching mode, “Oh yeah, looks like we both made a couple of bad moves there, Jack” as we continue to play.

Not surprisingly, the experts say that a child’s age should be taken into consideration when an adult is in competition with them.

Coincidentally, a day after my checkers game with Jack I was involved in a very competitive bowling match with Molly who is ten. She had completed her final frame with a total score of 103. I entered my final frame with a 100 score. So, I needed just a 3 to tie and a 4 to win.

As I stared down the alley, preparing to take my three step approach, my mind drifted back to 1989 when Molly’s mother, my daughter Katy, was 12 years old and I was, well, much younger than my present self. We would often go jogging together through our Arnold Mills neighborhood in Cumberland. It had become a ritual that as we made the final turn onto the street to our house we would finish with a sprint race to see who could reach our driveway first. I had always made the sprint competitive and let Katy beat me by a small margin. Only, on this now remembered Spring night in 1989 when we accelerated from jogging to sprinting there was a new burst of speed from my daughter and a new weight of inertia in my running. For the first time Katy raced progressively ahead of me. Her arms flew up in victory as she reached our driveway.

This now all flashed back to me as I peered at the pins at the end of the bowling alley in Apex, North Carolina. I realized time would pass quickly, Molly and Jack would become adults and experience victories and defeats on their own.

As I released the colorful bowling ball my eyes focused on the number 7 pin tucked far
left on the triangle of pins. I had never thought how difficult it is to only knock down two pins with two rolls of a ten pin ball!

If you are fortunate, first your children, then your grandchildren will provide you with benchmark moments spotlighting the passage of time in a well lived life.
– END –

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