Sandra Tsing Loh argues with her kids over the rules of Scrabble.
Hey! What happened to summer? The kids have just gone back to school - my youngest just started middle school! It's official. There are no babies around the house. Their homework is making less and less sense. Instead of doing elaborate charades: "If Sally takes three cookies, how many cookies are left?" it's all a gruff "Look up the Khan Lecture."
And I, for one, am delighted. For too long, I've been an all-too-nurturing "educational concierge." When I had a six-month old baby, as if in a glaze, I signed up for Mommy and Me "music" classes at Gymboree. Why? We were trying to teach African drumming to a thing who could barely keep up her head! Sitting lessons would have been better. Instead of 15 bucks for 45 minutes, I could have paid the neighbor kid to babysit and gotten two hours of sleep.
I've squired my children to museums where the parking alone was a puzzle problem, while playing Barney counting songs and snacking on baked chips that are still decomposing in my car seats.
To which I say, no more. It's mom time now!
I'm pouring myself some Chardonnay and bringing back Scrabble--without my children! Why? Because kids are terrible at board games. You're always sitting around playing "Candyland" or "Sorry," and the mother always has to fall on her sword and lose to keep the youngest from crying.
Plus, it's due to my kids that we own a Junior Scrabble board with a pony on the front. Please. And yet, at my local bookstore recently, I saw other unseemly Scrabble variations. A "Clue" version of Scrabble where you pull a card and suddenly everyone exchanges "mystery" letters. Gardening Scrabble. In desperation, I played some free online Scrabble via Pogo. My code name was "noisyHazel900," I played a robot, and while waiting I watched an ad for antidepressants and a commercial for an elderly couple whose marital life was invigorated by a Swiffer.
So I let my kids play on my new deluxe rotating Scrabble board with me, but it was my rules, my way. No more: "My letters are terrible! What can I spell with these?" while their racks over-spilled with X,Q, J. I would just lean forward and play their words for them. Instead of allowing them to waste an S or a blank I might take it for myself and give them an I.
And weirdly, they started catching the fever. We all became obsessed over the unfair undervaluing of C and V. "For three and four points, who wouldn't prefer an M and an H!" Or "Our pharmacy is called CVS. We go there all the time, but who knows what CVS stands for? Think about it! Weird!"
Next week: Scrabble gets seriously U-G-L-Y.