My mom bought Claire one of those Memory card matching games a few years ago – you know, the game where you have to flip over a card, then find its match and flip that card over as well. Claire loves Memory, and lately we’ve been playing a round or two before we read books at bedtime.
Claire has always been freakishly good at this game – she gets this from her father. But last night, for some reason, she decided to stack the deck. I let her set up the board, then I watched as she surreptitiously (or so she thought) placed all the matching cards next to one another on the table. I pretended not to notice and played along, just to see what she would do.
She of course made matches immediately, but interestingly, after a couple of matches, she “threw” her turn and deliberately picked non-matching cards. Then she started coaching me, telling me which cards to pick to make a match. I stubbornly insisted I wanted to choose my own cards to flip over. She quickly started to feel really bad, and even wanted to give me some of her matches so that it wasn’t a clean sweep.
I found it fascinating to watch this process – the decision to stack the deck, the regret as she realized it wasn’t as fun to play when you know where the cards are, and the guilt she felt about her unfair play. By the end of the game, she was almost in tears, and wanting to give me all of her cards. It was such a sweet moment, and I just wanted to hold it forever. It was a great learning moment for Claire, but also for me as a parent. It was so interesting for me to realize that she can learn her own lesson, without me as the parent having to tell her what what she did was wrong. Can she stay this sweet forever?