“No, after you normal summon Dverg of the Nordic Alfar you can only normal summon a Nordic monster!”
“Hey, that card was face-up! You have to send it to the graveyard!”
“You can only summon one Red Eyes, but not Red-Eyes B. Chick, that requires a special summon! That doesn’t count! MOOOOOM!”
If this sounds like a foreign language to you, you are not alone. This is the second language spoken in my house, the language of Yu-Gi-Oh.
For those of you unfamiliar, Yu-Gi-Oh is a trading card game, sort of like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering. I’d try to explain it beyond that, but I would only embarrass myself and mortify my children.
I’ve tried to play this beloved pastime of my boys with them on more than one occasion and cannot grasp even the most basic premise of the game. Even when I manage to understand the card in front of me, there is no chance I can relate it to the other cards in play, let alone memorize the definitions of things like the field, the zone, the graveyard, the various summoning effects or even the order of play in this game. I’ve tried though, because I want to take an interest in what interests the boys. Shared interests and all that. I’ve read it’s important. On the Internet.
But as it turns out, not learning Yu-Gi-Oh was one of the best parenting moves I’ve ever made.
Those of you who know me well know that I’m fairly conflict averse. I’m not the type of person who relishes a good argument for argument’s sake, and I especially dislike bearing witness to arguments I’m not involved in personally. I have spent the better part of my adult life unlearning the codependent behaviors of a good little peacekeeper. It’s a work in progress.
Because of this knee-jerk reaction to conflict, I’ve had to be very intentional about not intervening in my kids’ arguments while simultaneously helping them learn how to resolve conflict appropriately – piece of cake, right? When my boys start to argue, I can feel my body responding. My pulse quickens, I swear my blood pressure spikes, volume intensifies, and the room gets smaller and warmer in an instant. While this is happening, I start reminding myself not to involve myself in their fight. They know the steps we follow in our home to resolve conflict – go directly to the person you are having a conflict with first and do not bring the conflict to mom or dad until you have exhausted all your options or to prevent a fist fight. Even if you bring the conflict to mom and dad, it’s unlikely we’ll solve the dispute, but we will listen and help you take the steps to problem solve it on your own.
That’s the plan anyway.
It’s not always the reality.
There have been times where I’ve played judge or jury. Or both. There have been times when my own conflict aversion has taken precedence over the very real need of my children to learn to fight their own battles and I’ve named a victor.
I cannot solve their Yu-Gi-Oh fights. They could explain the conflict to me all the live long day and I’d be no closer to understanding who is at fault than I was when the first card went flying across the room (okay, so maybe a flying card would clue me in a little).
I am so very grateful for this trading card parenting intervention and would highly recommend this strategy to any other parents out there who are working hard at staying out of their kids’ arguments. Just point them towards an activity you have no interest in mastering and then lock yourself in another room with a cup of coffee and a very long book. Since my boys have started playing Yu-Gi-Oh together, I have seen them successfully navigate conflict time and time again. Their shared motivation of playing the game propels them towards solutions, and the natural consequence of losing their live-in Yu-Gi-Oh playmate is enough to stop a fight in its tracks.
Most of the time.
And when it comes to parenting, most of the time is the gold standard, isn’t it?