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Dumb Dinner Game Life Lessons

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So I have started this new THING at dinner called “What would you do?” Because I’m always trying to find a way to inject a life lesson when my children are NOT in trouble, NOT tuning me out, and NOT crying so hard that my platitudes about how you should “never ever NEVER grab a cactus with your bare hands” tend to go unheard. For my kids, life lessons work best if they are game-like in nature.

So it works like this: I set up a scenario and then ask the contestants, “What would you do?” My two oldest children, highly competitive in nature, work out their answers, trying to outdo the other in terms of overall impressiveness. They get graded on “Applicability.” “Creativity.” And there’s bonus points on “Brown-Nosing Suavity.”

Generally, the game ends with, “Okay Mom, what would YOU do?” Not because they care about learning a lesson, so much as because they’d like to dissect my answer in search of a slip-up/inaccuracy/misjudgment. Today’s dinner scenario was this: I checked the mail and your Auntie Lizzie just sent each of you a check in the amount of $1,000. What would you do with it?”

My son immediately spent his imaginary thousand bucks on a laptop, Nintendo DS games and enough Pokémon cards to knock out three million acres of rainforest. But he’d like everyone to know that he WOULD share all his wares with you IF you ask nicely. No question!

My daughter has a three-year advantage over her brother (not to mention a higher capacity for remembering) and, therefore, was totally schooled. So when asked what she would do, she basically read the script to me: I will give a third to charity. I will save a third. And I will procure some clothing with the remainder since I am a growing child who would like to set a fashionably sensible example for all the children of the world.

As you can guess, my daughter won Best Answer, snarky or not. But my son didn’t seem to care. He was acutely interested in what I would do with an extra thousand bucks lying around. And just when I was about to rip into my spiel about save save save, he said, “Uh-huh. Yeah. But what would you have done with an extra thousand bucks lying around AS A KID?”

Touché.

Yes son, my answer would have probably resembled yours more so than Toni’s when I was seven. Although my drug of choice was roller skates. So I might have invested in a nice slab of concrete back in ’78. Maybe some knee pads and band-aids. Which, OK FINE, is a lot less useful than your make-believe laptop. Not to mention less aesthetic. And probably not very Earth-friendly, charitable, or educational in nature…

So the life lesson, in case you were wondering, is: Don’t invent stupid dinner games unless you’re absolutely sure the children won’t win.

-Catherine Dix

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Comments
  • comment avatar Eva May 20, 2008

    As a general rule, my husband will not play or invent games unless he is the assured winner. Because he is just that competitive!!

  • comment avatar Aimee May 20, 2008

    I am totally doing this.

  • comment avatar Suzanne Bastien May 20, 2008

    Fabulous!
    I love that answer!

    We play the… “Who likes _____ the best?”

    ~Who likes fruit the best?
    ~Who screams the best?
    ~Who likes to be tickled the best?

    We make sure to ask them so that each kid gets to feel cool, etc.

    I like yours.. I’m gonna try it tonight!!

  • comment avatar T May 20, 2008

    We play “Good and Bad.” It’s not really a game, but it’s a nice way to start a conversation and give everyone a chance to be heard. We just go around the table giving each person a turn to tell us something good and something bad that happened to him or her that day.

  • comment avatar Lori May 20, 2008

    Hmmmmm. What would I have bought way back when?

    Supertramp and The Knack cassettes, and a nice stereo. Oh, yeah. And save and donate ;-).

    As for dinner games, the kids love it when we trade identities. Tonight, I was Daddy and he was Mommy. Sometimes I’m the daughter and sometimes I’m the son. The kids think it’s hysterical, and when they’re the parents, they spout back to us all our parental pearls of wisdom.

  • comment avatar Karen Jones May 21, 2008

    Cute, cute, cute idea! I especially like how in-depth your rules are!

  • comment avatar Annie May 21, 2008

    We like to play “Would You Rather…” while traveling in the car. It’s a fun way to find out what your kids value.

    “Would you rather lose your arms or legs?”

    “Would you rather have free ice cream for life or go to an amusement park free for a week?”

    “Would you rather eat frog intestines or boiled cockroaches?”

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