I just triumphed at a game of Memory with my five-year-old. Actually, two out of three games. Remember the one where you lay down cards, then turn them over one by one, trying to find a pair? The one with the most cards wins. Now, bragging about a win in a game with my five-year-old might sound like I'm desperate for a win. And I am, except the competitor is my husband and the game is Scrabble. But that's a whole different story.
In today's game of Memory, of course I could have let my daughter win. I could have. In fact, I'm guilty of doing that in the past when she was younger. But here's the thing. When we first sat down, she had the cards all laid out for us. As in, she put them precisely where she knew they were. This was not acceptable, so I reshuffled. When the game was underway, my daughter saw that I had two pairs already, specifically, the Blue Morpho Butterfly (this being a Diego game). This did not sit well with her at all. She wanted to find the blue morpho butterfly. She began to tear up, then erupted in an all-out fit. I told her (sweetly but sternly) to pull herself together, and she did somewhat. We ended the game in a tie, five to five. No winners, no losers.
Next game, we started out okay, but when it looked like I was getting more pairs than she had, she got consumed with it. Again. I told her that if she could just keep it together and not focus on how many I had, she could beat me. She lost her cool again. So I won, seven to three.
Game three. The heat is on. I'm wanting her to win. I am. Really I am. I get a pair, she gets a pair, then me, then me again. She's keeping her cool. She's doing great. Then wouldn't you know it, her little brother walks in after coming home from the barber shop and says, "Mommy's going to win" as he's looking at my hidden stash of pairs. Now, mind you, my daughter has just found a pair and she gets to go again. She has another turn. I know she knows where the blue morpho butterfly is because I just turned it over in the last move, but suddenly, she loses her focus. She gets concerned with how many pairs I have. Boom. Just like that. I win again.
Here's the good news. My daughter didn't cry in the third game. We did a post-mortem and discussed what went wrong. She realized she lost her focus when she became concerned with my cards. She knew it. She smiled. She understood. So I told her about an old high school English teacher of mine who used to say to me, "Focus, Nee-kol, Focus!" I told her that when I began writing years later, I could hear that English teacher's voice in my head, "Focus, Nee-kol," as I trudged on through to the finish line of my novels. I did it in that deep voice of his too. "So I say to you, Olivia, remember these words, Focus, Olivia, Focus! And when you keep your focus, you can do anything you set your mind to." That was a little something extra from Mommy.
All in all, looking back, I think my daughter might have been the big winner today. Because she learned the most important lesson of all. And I really think she got it. At five years old.
I tell you this today because we all lose our focus. Often we lose it by looking to see how many pairs the other guy has. Big mistake. Just do your best. Focus on playing your best game, and you might just find out that not only did you reach the finish line, but you won the whole kit and caboodle.
Gee, next time I better watch out, or my daughter might just cream me at Memory. Having young children, mine's not anything close to what it used to be.