This Side Up

Patience is a learning game


“Patience” is not in the vocabulary of a 5-year-old.

I tried the word with granddaughter Sydney balanced on my knee and she spun around and looked me in the eye. Maybe she understood the word; maybe she didn’t, but from my tone of voice she knew she didn’t like it.

“You have to have patience,” I admonished. “You’ll get a turn.”

She made an ugly face as if I was torturing her.

“But,” she complained, “It’s my turn.”

I wondered where this idea of equal time on her father’s iPad had come from. It seemed to have little to do with whether a game was over, or that her twin sister was on her way to a high score playing Angry Birds.

Sydney squirmed in my lap and poked the iPad with her finger. Alex protested, as if her sister had hit her. She pushed away Sydney’s hand.

“Stop that,” she said continuing with the game.

“But she won’t let me do it,” Sydney whined.

The game was over and Alex quickly switched to another, a version of fish-eat-fish, which may be closer to the corporate world than anything else I’ve seen. The player starts off with a comparatively small fish that gets bigger and bigger the more smaller fish it eats. The objective is to avoid the bigger fish until you’re big enough to eat them. The one fish you have to swim clear of is the barracuda that is bigger than all the fish.

The twins are adept at the game; although I wonder what effect it may have on their psyche.

Sydney was incensed. Alex showed no sign of relinquishing the iPad and, in fact, was delighting in her sister’s anguish.

What’s a grandfather to do?

“Tell you what,” I announced to Sydney, “Will you let Alex play five full games if you then get the iPad and play 10 games? But you can’t touch.”

Sydney liked this deal. She beamed, folding her arms across her chest.

Alex paused to think this over. Obviously five for 10 was an awfully good deal. That could mean that Sydney would have the iPad twice as long as she.

Alex looked at me. Apparently she thought it unfair. But she had a plan. She switched games. The swimming fish were replaced by a plot of land. With the poke of a finger she started planting raspberries in squares covering the screen. Nothing happened at first. Then shoots appeared followed by blossoms and finally the berries.

Sydney immediately recognized the delay tactic. She reached out and poked the screen. Alex complained.

“OK,” I declared in an officious voice, “because you broke the rule, now you only get to play seven games.”

It was Sydney’s turn to be upset.

“But I was helping.”

“Is that true, Alex?”

She nodded.

Now I was in a bind. By edict, I restored Sydney’s 10 full games, warning there would be penalties if she interfered with Alex.

Sydney restrained herself. Alex continued playing, although she wasn’t allowed to taunt her sister. She was losing interest.

“When do I get to play?” I asked.

This hadn’t occurred to them.

Alex returned to the fish game.

“What color fish do you want to be?” she asked.

I said blue. Sydney said she likes yellow best.

The blue fish swam across the screen with larger green fish coming perilously close. A pair of tiny hands raced to the screen as Sydney directed my fish from becoming dinner. I wasn’t going to complain.

In this fish-eat-fish world, I can use all the help I can get.


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