I don’t want to brag, but I easily beat an 11-year-old at Trivial Pursuit for Kids last week. Technically the margin of victory was only a single piece of pie, but he never had a chance, really. With questions like “Why should you be kind to your web-footed friends?”, that duck, his mother and I could collectively taste my impending win only moments after the very first roll of the dice.
I mastered the art of multiple choice like Trivial Pursuit for Kids back when I took Seventeen magazine quizzes instead of gym class in middle school. Besides, when any question requires digging into my extensive well of utterly useless and infantile pop-culture knowledge (“Which of the Seven Dwarfs has the longest beard?” and “What four words follow “Oops” in a Britney Spears song?”, for example), I’m a shoo-in for success.
Lately it has become quite clear that I peaked mentally and physically somewhere in the range of 12 to 25 years ago. Since it’s evident that I’m not going to get much better at anything, I figure it’s best for my ego if I can dominate at that which will make me feel best about myself. Look out, tweens: I’m coming for you.
When I was in New York visiting my family last month, I cuddled up in bed with my mom each night after dinner. When she’d read The New York Times, I’d ask for the Arts section so I could do the crossword puzzle. You know, on Monday and Tuesday.
I polished them off — in ink — in 30 minutes or so and then tossed the paper on or next to her lap when I was through to ensure she saw how I annihilated the easiest puzzles of the week. Especially because I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know they’re easier earlier in the week. And of course, what she doesn’t know will make her that much more proud of me. For the puzzles later in the week, I’d casually leave them 75 percent unfinished and face down under a few other discarded newspaper sections in the pile outside of her room. Parents and children don’t need to share everything.
In late December my husband and I took our 2-year-old skiing for the first time on Panda Peak at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen. I don’t want to say I’m a great skier, but I was a standout on the bunny hill, and I could sense that when Rick and I inched down the hill while holding her upright by the wrists in all of her dead weight glory, she was impressed with my ability to carve out some masterful turns on the 15-degree slope. And the way I flawlessly unloaded from the child-size chairlift while simultaneously holding her aloft? The admiration and gratitude in her eyes were overflowing.
It’s not nearly the first time she’s been impressed with me. As far as my daughter is concerned, no one could possibly create a more meaningful and deep portrait of a butterfly fluttering over a rainbow than yours truly. We occasionally paint side by side at the kitchen table and I’ll watch as she peeks over at my paper with what seems to be a feeling of awe and wonder.
When Rick comes home from work and she shows him my paintings proudly as if it they were her own, I smile and chuckle in a motherly sort of way, but quickly make sure to give him a wink so that that he understands the true identity of the artist. After all, credit where credit is due, right? Take no prisoners, even (and especially) when arting and crafting with a toddler. I mean, what’s next? Is she going to try and pass off my smiley face doodles on the grocery list as her own? I don’t think so.
When I was a volunteer in a big buddy-type program, I never once threw a game of Connect Four; after all, it took years for me to hone a strategy in a game that leaves so many others cross-eyed over the black and red circle tiles. I don’t let my nephew cheat at checkers. I happily out swing my nieces on the playground if it means they’ll understand afterwards who’s boss. And one time, during a mile race when I almost got beat by a 4-year-old, I smirked as I left him in the dust just feet before the finish line. I figure I did him a favor; after all, you can never prepare enough for the competitive rigor of kindergarten.
I just can’t wait until my daughter’s old enough to battle it out in Candy Land. One round with me and she’ll never look at a gumdrop the same way again.
More at MeredithCarroll.com.