Thoughts unbecoming a parent (or maybe not)

In college, I fell in with a crowd of card players. While other students were out learning about jello shots and frat parties, I was learning about bowers and meld and trump. We mostly played euchre (if four were playing) or pinochle (if more than four were playing). In fact, I met my SO playing cards with this bunch and eventually married into a serious card-playing family.

The family game is pinochle – the more players and decks, the better – though the oldest generation favored setback, which used to be played out of deference when they were around. (Sadly, none of them are anymore. Around, that is.) It has long been a milestone rite of passage to be allowed to play cards with the adults.

After dinner at the in-laws’ last night, someone made the inevitable suggestion that we play cards. My older child, whose friends play snap and Egyptian rat slap at school during lunch, jumped at the idea. The younger one wasn’t at all enthusiastic, but we persuaded her to play with us for one deal around the table – six hands. By the second hand, I was thinking about how much fun it would be to play five-handed.

She took FOREVER to pick up, sort, and look at her cards. She took FOREVER to bid. She took FOREVER to meld. She took FOREVER to play each and every card. (There were sixteen tricks per hand; you do the math.) And she demanded complete silence while she deliberated, getting irate if the rest of us so much as talked among ourselves.

Oh, and did I mention that she outbid everyone for four of the six hands?

To her credit, she’s a gutsy and creative player, seeing possibilities (and strands of luck) where more experienced players would see nothing at all. She takes outrageous chances and leads with a breathtaking disregard for orthodoxy that pays off surprisingly well. But she’s also very expressive, and when one of her unconventional stratagems falls through, she becomes visibly and audibly upset. This makes for a less-than-pleasant playing environment, and quickly had me thinking less-than-charitable thoughts.

Her father was remarkably patient, especially considering he was one of her partners. His forbearance gave me pause; I, too, am a more deliberate player than most, and I owe much of my present confidence and velocity (such as it is) in playing to the kindness and tolerance of players who nurtured me through my most awkward stages of learning. Then the Good Parent voice chimed in, “How will she ever learn to play with confidence and reasonable speed if she doesn’t get to practice in a supportive environment?”

A martyred sigh was poised on my lips; I modulated it into a long, meditative breath: slow exhalation, slow inhalation. With a much firmer grip on my composure, I closed my eyes and awaited the bidder’s next move, resolved not to be quite so persistent the next time she said she didn’t want to play. After all, it might be our own fault for pushing her to join us. Maybe we should let her come to us in her own time.


8 responses to “Thoughts unbecoming a parent (or maybe not)

  1. Joan Sorenson

    I think we all showed remarkable restraint – but 5 handed sounds good to me too!! 🙂

  2. My parents and my best friend’s parents would always play euchre on the weekends or while we were camping out at some remote location. My best friend and I were always off doing “girly” things like playing dress up, or coming up with skits to perform for the adults, or in our onesy PJs eating popcorn while watching late night TV, or scouting the campsite for cool little creatures. Unfortunately, they never passed down the game of euchre….not to me anyway. And to this day, I don’t know how to play. And now as an adult, I’ll hear my friends (mostly mid-westeners) talk about getting together to play euchre and wish I knew how. Funny, when I was a kid I always thought it was an “adult” thing to do, and never crossed my mind to ask to play.

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      I had no idea, Diane! We’ll teach you the next time we visit, and then you’ll be in the know. 😉

  3. I love it! You probably taught me euchre. I learned to play pinocle on my grandmother’s lap. My brothers and mother love playing pinocle. When I moved to California, it was interesting to learn that there are variations to the way the game is played across the country. Unfortunately, when I do get together with my family, I’m not one to stay up late to play…. Now that the kids are older, perhaps we can try to play the next time I visit my brothers and they can learn, too!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Just don’t press them if they say no. Someone ought to benefit from my experience! (Heaven knows it probably won’t be me.)

  4. I came from a card-playing family…but we seem to have lost it, over the years.

    fun post, Jennifer…

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