“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It’s as if they are showing you the way.” – Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
In the last month, an activity that I never participated in with any regularity has become a daily occurrence. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I do it every single day. And not only that, I usually do it over and over again. Just a few short weeks ago, this happening rarely, if ever, happened. In fact, if you would have asked me if I enjoyed this particular activity, I probably would have answered no. But now I really enjoy it, even look forward to it.
I’m talking, of course, about playing the card game, Uno.
I used to really dislike playing Uno cards. This one time I was at Jekyll Island with a group of college students, and I got stuck in a game of Uno on the beach that literally lasted over an hour. Like a clever and malicious araña (that’s Spanish for “spider.” Ya know, because the name of the game is Spanish for “one.” I know, clever, right?) it trapped me into its multi-colored web and wouldn’t release me all afternoon, sucking an hour of my life away. The reason the game lasts so long is that it is totally arbitrary. There is no skill involved whatsoever. Nobody has any control over the outcome. It’s all in the luck of the draw. And I really can’t stand games that have require no skill or intellect. I’m too much of a control freak for that.
Of course, there is a luck factor in any card game you play. But Uno is one of the worst offenders of this reality. Second only to the most of egregious time-wasters, Phase 10. So, for me, my enjoyment of card games and desire to play them decreases as the level of skill required diminishes. I’ve never been sophisticated enough to learn to play Bridge or Pinochle. And I’m not patient enough to play Blackjack. So, for me, it goes like this: Poker>Hearts>Spades>Rook>Uno>Phase 10. With poker being a fun and competitive way to spend a couple of hours (or more), Phase 10 being the equivalent of flushing 2 hours of your life down the toilet, and everything else falling somewhere in between.
This has all changed in the last month, though. Uno has skyrocketed to the top of my list of enjoyable card games. I can tell you that I’m just as shocked as you are. I’m a grown man. Why would my affinity for a children’s card game ramp up at this stage of my life? Uno reason, and uno reason alone.
My daughter has come to love it.
And because she loves it, I’ve come to love it, too. We play Uno cards in the morning before school. We play in the afternoons when I get home from work. We play in the evening right before she goes to bed. Here’s how it goes down. She always asks very politely if we can play the game. I usually don’t respond with a yes. It just doesn’t communicate the level of excitement that I feel for playing with her. So I almost always say, “of course!” The other day she said, “I like it when you say, ‘of course.’ It’s so polite!” Then, once we receive our hand, she reveals how many “power ups” she has, and then she wants to know how many I have. (She calls the Reverse, Skip, Draw Two, and Wild cards “power ups.” Mario Kart influence, I suppose)
A lot of times, my son even joins in on the action. It’s one of the only activities that my children can do together without ending up fussing at each other (I’m sure your children get along perfectly with each other, but mine sure don’t. At least not for long periods of time). And so we play. We shuffle. We deal. We laugh (she giggles). We talk. We talk smack. We play and play and play. And when the last card goes down, she always pleads, “one more game!” Even if it’s the third or fourth time that she’s said it.
She loves it. And my kids love playing it together. And now it’s my favorite card game in the world. One of the highlights of every single day.
That’s one of the many beautiful realities about having children. They expand your understanding of what is good, and fun, and worthwhile. They challenge your pre-conceived notions about how you should spend your time. The silly, selfish reasons we like or dislike certain things. And the deep, ingrained assumptions we have that are not reflective of reality at all.
Kids make us younger (in spirit, at least). They broaden our perspective. They remind us of the truth that the most rewarding parts of life are often the little things, the most unassuming delights, the most overlooked joys. Faith. Wonder. Discovery. They reinforce the reality that we’re not in control, just along for this wild, glorious, and beautiful ride of parenting.
And that’s uno regalo increíble.