Friday, October 23, 2009

Girl's got game

My lovely daughter, Livy, turned 6 a month ago, and that little brain of hers is leaping exponentially, breathtakingly in observation, morality, conceptualization, wit, creativity, logic -- and that includes games.

When she was barely 5 a year ago, she saw me and a neighbor playing Gears of War on an X-Box and asked to learn. When a young child asks to learn something, I've long since discovered, she doesn't necessarily mean that you are to go through an extensive explanation of the game and the controls. It generally means, "Hand me the controls, shut up, and let me learn all the stuff myself. Cool?" And, of course, through trial and error (a kid's favorite means of learning), she learned the X-Box controls and was soon vanquishing the Gears of War enemy with tactical ability, astounding me and other adults who saw her. (The tech revolution was MADE for children. Everything is perfectly logical and reality-oriented, just like unmuddied minds.)

In the last several months, she has learned all the controls and rules for her electronic DS2 and her Leapster, as well as the different rules for a dozen or more games for those sets. In the last month, she has learned (and mastered the rules) for Uno, Monopoly, Sorry and many other games. She asked me last week if I would play a game of chess with her. She barely let me explain the different capabilities of the pieces before jumping out of her skin, but she realized in this instance that she did need to hear this from me because she would be powerless without it. That's kids for ya, again. If you leave them alone, they know most of the time when to listen and when to plunge forward with playful abandon.

The funniest thing I've found about Livy, though, is her predilection for constant monologue when we are playing games, as if she were an innocent and yet canny cardsharp. She plays psyche games without knowing really that she's doing it. When we're playing Uno (which we did for four hours on Wednesday), she will say something like, "Hmm, should I give you the Four+ card now or wait? You won't like this card. You will see. It is a very special card. This is something that I have ..." She says it with a perfectly serious yet angelic face with all the necessary gravity of a plotting victor. It's hilarious!

Another wonderful product of her latent maturity is her circumspection about what games are all about -- not winning, per se, but execution -- doing your best and having fun. This doesn't mean she doesn't keep score and announce the score with alacrity, but it does mean that her self-esteem is not caught up in winning. She will say, after 8 games of Uno, "Daddy, you won five and I won three," and then say, "Let's make some hot chocolate" directly after.

I'm almost brought to tears often around her because of my joy at who she is and the thought of who she will become. I'm overjoyed at being able to be a part of her sweet life. I'm thankful each day -- even when she tromps over me in Sorry! -- and then high-fives with her big smile and bright eyes.

Yes, you got game, my darling, and are a good person, to boot.