My mother hates Monopoly. She says it's greedy and just plain mean. Of course it is. How else could you expect to bankrupt your playmates and win?
Growing up, my sisters and I played quite often, and games would last for days on end. I remember more fun and tears with Monopoly than probably any other game we played. I also remember a certain someone (me) who only wanted to be paid in pink and white bills. So I was very excited when my oldest turned 10 and we figured the boys would be ready for the real game. I pulled out the old classic game my husband and I had played years ago until I got tired of losing every time and packed it away. And so it began.
My younger son, Chase, really doesn't like to lose and isn't a very good winner either, so I wasn't sure that Monopoly would be the best game for him. But they had outgrown the junior game, and a few days after Eli turned 10, we began to play.
It was a blast and, surprisingly, there were no tears or tantrums, and the two boys and I, win or lose, had fun. They were great at counting out money and could figure out the interest paid on property when you un-mortgage it. They even started knowing the rent amounts without looking.
Monopoly quickly became a favorite. When my husband would play, the boys all would make deals and trades, and somehow, I was always on the losing end. It was just as great as I remembered.
Then one cold day when just the boys and I were playing, a strange thing happened, and something beautiful just the same.
My two boys, who fight over being first and "who started it," made a deal. Chase was short on money and Eli covered the rent due to me. Then when Eli landed on Chase's property, Chase didn't collect. And $10 or $50 here and a "get out of jail free" card there turned into the two boys not charging each other rent and forgiving debts. They finally pooled their properties and cash, and upon the good advice of their parents became a one player team to finish the game. Though I still won that game, seeing the two of them team up together was a joy for me.
Recently, as I was sitting at the computer, the boys were playing in the other room. Apparently, the House Rules have changed some. Chase was winning and Eli was down to nothing, so Chase let him skip a payment. Then, you can just pay $50 instead of $200. How about if you pay $18 and go back three spaces.
What kind of rules were they playing?
I told them that they can't play like that and make up such rules. But I also told them I wasn't playing, so it was their game, their rules. As I listened to the game, I wondered where was the greed? Why didn't Chase just finish Eli off and end the game and go do something else? So I asked.
Their responses were amusing to me. "We like really long games, and besides, we like to be generous! It's more fun."
I smiled and tried to think of what to say next. It is such a blessing when kids are so kind and giving. I hope silently that this mind-set takes over other parts of their lives and wonder if maybe next time my mom will join in with them. After all, at our house Monopoly isn't always a greedy game.
Jenifer Clayborn lives in North Charleston with her husband and two sons.