Building Bridges Through A Game of Cards.

After parenting for awhile, you’d finally think you know what you’re doing.

Ha! Isn’t that the biggest joke!

As any parent knows, just when you’re comfortable and in the grove, the ground changes. They have another growth spurt. Start school. Get bullied. Become the bully. They have good days and bad days. There is no consistency.

You feel completely and utterly, lost, stumped, completely out at sea and …a bad parent.

However, no matter who you are, there inevitably comes a day when you kid gets stuck. The wheels stop moving and you, as parent, are called upon to pull out your magic wand and suddenly make everything better. You say a few abracadabras and tap your kid on the head three times but nothing happens. There’s not even a poof of smoke. You’re not sure what’s gone wrong. Perhaps, your wand is bent or the batteries are flat but, of course, you’ve lost the instruction manual.That’s if your wand ever had one. It’s amazing how few things related to parenting come with instructions, most notably, the kid themselves. Indeed, they arrived into this world with nothing at all but a scream.

Away, unable to get your wand operational, you’re stumped.

Your kid is stumped.

Hey, most of the time, even the professionals are stumped. That’s if you can get your kid to see any kind of professional. Chances are if they’re not moving, that’s the last place they’ll go.

Here’s a post I wrote recently about the misunderstood and hurting child:

Anyway, for many of us, Winter can be a bit of a downer. Mister has had a dreadful asthma cough, poor, broken sleep as well as some troubles with his stomach where he was seeing stars and vomiting for a bit. Of course, the Emergency Department had no explanation and there was the usual mention of a “virus”. He’s missed a lot of school and really was operating at half mast and it wasn’t depression either. At least, that wasn’t the trigger. That said, with all that going on, he was hardly doing the happy dance.

However, even though my magic wand wasn’t operational, I still had my bag of tricks. This is what I’ll call “experience”. Not just my own experiences but what’s worked for others as well.

As much as someone who is struggling can appear like a cactus and needing to be left alone, this can also a time when they cautiously need you to dig in. More hugs, not less hugs. Understanding, empathy, doing things together..even, perhaps, if the bedroom door is shut.

That said, you need a catalyst. Some way of making that connection and lighting that initial spark.

Well, believe me. I was looking. Looking…looking…Did I mention looking?!!!

I’m not saying that this will work for everyone or that this is going to work forever but I remembered that I used to play a lot of card games with my friends in high school. Both my parents were avid Bridge players who taught my brother and I how to play as soon as we were old enough.

Finally, I had that elusive “light bulb moment”! Teaching the kids how to play 500.

In addition to seeing it as something we could do as a family, I also thought playing cards is a good way to make friends. Moreover, being good at Maths, I thought he’d love it and our daughter also loves a strategic challenge. It is hard enough for anyone to feel good trying to get anywhere on their weaknesses and I thought playing 500 would bring out their strengths.

Don't you just love the hot pink of the macaroon mix?!!

Don’t you just love the hot pink of the macaroon mix?!!

So, after refreshing ourselves on the rules, we had a card’s night last Friday along with a range of scrumptious desserts made by Miss: Adriano Zumbo’s Raspberry and Chocolate Macaroons (packet mix but very good) and a Chocolate & Raspberry Surprise…a pizza made out of a firm chocolate ganache with “my precious raspberries” and a raspberry sauce on top. It was exceptional good and yet so simple and straight out of her imagination. I was stoked. Mister also made a Chocolate & Raspberry Fudge which was exceptionally high in sugar but very good as well.

My daughter's spectacular tower of macaroons.

My daughter’s spectacular tower of macaroons.

Our kids are 11 and 9 and although we had a lot of explaining to do about suits, right and left bowers, tricks and bidding, after a few open hands, they pretty much had the hang of it.

Well, that’s as long as you don’t count a mad bidding war between the two of them. We were playing boys versus girls. First, it was my daughter’s turn to go all out with the bidding, stretching it to 8 Hearts (note we can only lose 2 tricks). Unfortunately, we went down in a spectacular defeat. A hand or two later, our son repeated the crime, at least, making the score somewhat even. Neither of them enjoyed going down…a valuable life lesson!

We also had to teach them about “the poker face”.

If you are not familiar with 500, the Joker is the highest card and just let me say there was a certain amount of jubilation when the kids had the Joker. We’re talking about jumping up and down with ear-to-ear grins doing an extremely exuberant version of the Happy Dance. Definitely no mind-reading required.

This is also a good life-lesson. All of us need to learn the distinction between what’s public and private and that there are some things you need to keep to yourself. Given how people plaster all sorts of selfies all over the Internet these days, learning how to hold back is a valuable life skill.

Naturally, we are wanting to continue these card nights. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, even though we’re all keen. There is always so much to be done! My real hope, though, is that the kids can teach their friends how to play and it’s something they can do together, beyond playing computer games. A way they can connect. With this in mind, we’re already planning to get a few families together to put the wheels in motion. I can’t wait!

I should just add that we are fairly involved in our local community. Our kids both do Scouts. We go to Church. We’re involved with the school. I’m even part of the local dog walking community. This gives our family this extra layer of support. We’re not parenting them alone and they also have also these beautiful outer layers of the onion…as well as our extended family. That means that as we head towards what is often seen as the tempestuous teenage years, that we have back up. We, and indeed they, are not alone!

I have to admit that I was jubilant when our game of 500 went so well and that I’d finally “done something right”! It’s so easy to feel like you’ve failed as a parent and that you’ve really lost your way but then all of a sudden, the light comes back on and the wheels are turning again. You might not always be all “happy family” but at least, you’re content!!

After all, so often relationships and people are not broken. The pathways just need a bit of weeding, maintenance or a new direction to reconnect. Relationships are a journey with ups and downs and twists and turns in the road…not a straight, level road!

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.
Charles R. Swindoll

I should also add that since my son fought off the virus and his cough has settled, he has also perked up a lot. That reminds me that as parents, we need to keep the faith and believe in the bigger picture and not get caught up in setbacks along the way which really can look like the end of the world.

We can never give up.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned, although I guess it is implied, is the incredible love I have for my kids and that connection we have. There is nothing else like it. Somehow, that love fuels my journey, even when I’m discouraged. During the terrible twos, I was told “tomorrow is another day” and that has also helped carry me though the rocky patches.

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Do you have any advice for parents facing the teenage years? Anything you’d do differently?

Love and loads of patience and courage for the journey,

xx Rowena

Loads of messy dishes: the sign of a great night!

Loads of messy dishes: the sign of a great night!

14 thoughts on “Building Bridges Through A Game of Cards.

  1. Doug DeBug

    Another fun and informative read. My two boys are close in age to your little ones so I relate to your stories very well. Keep up the creative parenting activities because it does and will make a difference. Even if the little ones keep a poker face, underneath it is being processed 🙂

  2. derrickjknight

    If your children are anything like mine, they will remember, long into adulthood, and long after you have forgotten, details of nights like these

  3. Minuscule Moments

    Rowena You brought back memories of my childhood. Nine kids and a game of 500. We use to have a couple of games going at the same time and the winners had a play off. great nights, we also use to have pictionary nights. Its different for my family because my little man does not enjoy games, and if he plays its a hard time when he loses. There are so many traditions from my up bringing that I wish I could do with my kids. But I guess we have our own rituals and the kids love when you just spend some time with them. I hope you son is on the mend. xxx

  4. New Journey

    Love the pictures…and yes a full sink is a sign of a fun night !!!
    .My kids are both grown and married out of the house….but for sure raising my son was the most challenging endeavor I have ever encountered….my daughter…easy peasy..they were both drama and could of won the academy award multiple times, however my son was the most stubborn child ever born….I am sure of it….there was no talking to him after age 15/16 he knew everything, and of course I couldn’t of known anything, he made me feel I should question all my decisions as I knew nothing…LOL ….he was always a courteous child, just extremely bull- headed….as my father said about me….he also needed to go to the school of hard knocks since he knew everything…LOL I was a single mother trying to take the place of both mom and dad…his father was around, but…..let not say anything bad about him…I learned later in life, that when I had the opportunity to catch my son in the car alone with me, even though he looked out the window ignoring me…he was listening… as some of my sage advise had come to fruition since….yeah!!! Just know that the teenage years will come to an end…they will come back and invade there bodies so you will recognize them again…lots of patience and kindness…..and I had a set rule if they screwed up, as all of us did during those years, we didn’t talk about it for 24 hours….cooling off period for both child and adult…my son has since apologized for being a difficult child and has thanked me for standing by him no matter how much sh–t he put me through….he told me that most parents would of walked away…like his father….brought tears to my eyes…I reminded him he was my child, my blood, I birthed him…I would never give up on him and will always be here for him….no matter…hopefully your children will remain angelic all through the teenage years….my fingers are crossed for you… my daughter raised me..LOL and don’t take any of it personally…as I am sure they are invaded by other beings during those years….glad your boy is beating the virus…kathy

  5. TanGental

    this has echoes; I hate card games, loathe them until somehow I’m bullied into taking part and you can’t stop me I think it is I know they’re addictive that I fight off that first ‘drink’ but once I’ve supped it’s cards anonymous the next day. Love the full sink; many memories of those too.

  6. merrildsmith

    I love this post–and the love you have for your kids. I am not a card player. I’m actually not crazy about games at all, but it’s great that it became a wonderful family time–and that perhaps something they will share with their friends, as well. The raspberry chocolate treats–amazing!

    I think just to keep communicating with your kids in their teenage years is important.

    I feel the same way about my kids as you do yours. I think I’m still close to both my girls. Now they’re both married. My baby was just married this past Saturday. She and her husband were surrounded by people who love them. His biological family was not there, but the family who took him in was.

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Merril. They have really been trying my patience…and my faith…lately. I am thinking my severe cough is freaking them out and they’re feeling like they’ve been thrown into the churning sea. The cough isn’t as bad as it sounds but two years ago, I had pneumonia and almost died and then had the chemo so I’m not surprised they’re not okay.
    Congratulations on the wedding. I’d love to hear more about it and see some photos. Weddings are such feel good occasions…although I do remember a bit of misery when I was very single attending friends’ weddings and feeling like I was going to be eternally single. It’s quite a different experience once you’re married or in a steady relationship and can be part of the joy. It’s now been a very long time since I was in that single camp when “Harry Met Sally” was something of an “anthem”.
    Shame her husband’s biological family couldn’t be there.
    I am home alone today as the kids are at Vacation Care. Geoff dropped them off and I woke up at 1pm and will soon be heading back to be. Really not feeling great with this cold but am enjoying the peace and quiet and being able to access my computer and write unimpeded again! xxRowena

  8. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Geoff. Geoff and I both loved playing cards too and we used to play a game we know of as Nine Down , which we could just play with the two of us:

    There was something about that full sink that just said to me a “fabulous night” rather than my usual “oh my goodness” response. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective!
    I am home alone with the dogs again today as the kids are off at Vacation Care. I need to build in these breathers during their holidays and usually find I need them when the day comes round. I slept in til 1pm today and will be back in bed soon. I am fighting a cold and a really horrendous cough, which isn’t life-threatening but certainly sounds like I’m taking my last gasps. Just seems to be a virus and I had something like this earlier in the year and just had to ride it out. Just think of a gasping,operatic smoker’s cough and you’d be on the money.
    I don’t know whether you have read any of my posts about the shooting down of MH17 over the Ukraine but the kids and I made hearts on paddle pop sticks and sent them to the families and schools affiliated with the victims. Anyway, I came across an article written by a journalist over there about how he and a photographer had collected seeds from sunflowers in the crash site and had brought them back to Australia to be distributed to families and friends of the victims and I put my hat in the ring. Two days ago, after retrieving two ebay parcels from my letter box, I found another card: Registered Post and was struggling to think of any outsiding purchases. Anyway, so I trundled off to the post office on the way to our daughter’s medical appt in Sydney yesterday after a trying morning with the boy and there was a metal tin inside containing those sunflower seeds. Suddenly, I was hit by the enormity of it all and such a sense of responsibility. Anyway, I’m writing a post about it so will elaborate there. I just know how you share not only my desire to build a better world but to actually DO something about it. That is what I also love about these seeds and what they represent. I’m hoping to plant them at the local high school where they have an ag plot. I don’t trust my brown thumb with these first batch of seeds. You see, I have a grand vision…fields and fields of these golden sunflowers. xx Rowena

  9. TanGental

    Now you have me welling up Row. That is fabulous, just beautiful. Please post pics as they grow. I love how you involve your tribe in these moments. One day, in their slippers and holding their mugs of hot chocolate they’ll look back at their mad mum and her schemes and smile and their grandkids will ask why and they’ll tell a tale of sunflowers and so it goes on. Planting down the generations. *snuffles* Get better soon, dear you, the world needs more of the same!

  10. merrildsmith

    Hope you feel better soon, Rowena. Even a little cold can make one feel wiped out, and a severe cough is much worse.

    The wedding was beautiful, wonderful, and fun. I did a brief blog post on it with a few photos (did not want to infringe on privacy and copyrights). You can at least get an idea. All day we thought we’d get rain, but they were able to have the wedding outside after all–and remarkably for July, it wasn’t too hot either! The reception was in a large, air-conditioned tent, so that was fine. 🙂

  11. roweeee Post author

    Thank you so very much, Geoff. I really do appreciate your friendship and our almost daily chats.
    I know you might find it a bit unlikely but Princess Diana has been quite a role model for me bringing up my kids. She introduced her boys to a whole range of different people and nurtured in them a love and acceptance of humanity and “heart” to all their human interacts. Sure, Harry’s been a bit of a lad and made his mistakes but who doesn’t…his have been more extreme than my own and covered by photographers but he’s come out trumps. Naturally, I take heart from how her boys have survived her death and done her proud and I have taken that envelope which appeared on Diana’s coffin with “Mummy” on it to heart. I have one of my own which I treasure.
    I must admit that I like the rest of the world was smitten by Diana and was turning 13 four days after the big royal wedding. One of my friends was taken off to get a “Lady Di Haircut” by her Gran and ended up with a big cowlick on her forehead instead.
    Given how things fell apart, it is easy to forget sometimes the good she did and how special she truly was and just remember the hoopla, which is such a shame!
    Doing my best to get rid of the snuffles and the bark. I think it might just be on its way out.
    By the way, didn’t the speech by the survivor of 7/7 talking about how it affected the victims really hit home! I don’t know who decided we’re all supposed to just get on with it and when we don’t we have a clinical diagnosis instead of what was always known as grief? How can we always be all happy happy joy joy specially when we’ve been through extreme trauma and had the very foundations of our world literally rocked? I know I’m back on my soap box again but we’re human beings, after all. Not machines!xx Rowena

  12. roweeee Post author

    Geoff, that was a fabulous post, which I’ve reblogged. Have you thought about trying to get that published in the press? I’m sure you’d have a taker.
    Yesterday, I took my daughter to see “Inside Out” and it really is worth going to as an adult. There’s some very interesting esoteric stuff, which i’ll seriously have to revisit on the DVD as well as looking at the place and indeed importance of sadness in our lives.
    The kids have gone to my parent’s place for a few dyas so I’m able to catch up on my writing, the blog and a good book and I think the dogs have also put there paws up for a walk along the beach…especially as it’s a warm day and I’ve heard a cold change is coming on Sunday. Hope you aren’t frying too much over there in “our” heat. I heard somebody talking about how you’re lot can’t handle the heat of course totally forgetting our response to the cold.

  13. TanGental

    No we can’t deal with the heat; I seem to remember as a kid that when Wimbledon came round it guaranteed rain. Now it’s 28 and a bit sticky. Not natural. I will look out for inside out too. Enjoy the beach; Dog and I took to the woods today for some shade. It was blissful

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