Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PLAYING THE GAME OF LIFE FOR REAL: A Guest Blog Post By Author (and Jello Mold Maker) Claire LaZebnik

When Prop 8 was passed last November, my four kids (ranging in age from 8 to 17) were stunned. They knew about the proposition, but had assumed it would easily be voted down, since they didn't see how anyone could have a problem with two people in love wanting to get married. They just didn't get it.

Now that the Prop 8 battle is front page news again, I've been wishing I could make everyone see the issue the way my kids do. So I have an idea.

Let's all sit down and play a board game together.

See, years ago, my nephew Rudy did this really cool thing. He and my sister were playing the Game of Life together and when he landed on the "get married" square, he plucked out a blue peg instead of a pink one and put it next to the blue driver peg in his little plastic car. He was pretty young--maybe five or six--and just wanted to change things around a bit. And he didn't see any reason not to.

After my sister mentioned this, the next time I played the Game of Life with my kids, I casually said, "I'm going to marry a woman this time," and put a pink peg next to mine. The kids paused. "Really?" they said. Then they shrugged. And then one of them decided also to marry a "same sex" peg.

From then on, whenever we played the game, we'd mix it up. Most often it was still a blue and a pink peg in the front of the car, but sometimes two blues would marry and have a family, sometimes two pinks. It didn't change the way we played the game. It just changed the look of the little plastic cars. But in its own quiet, mellow way, it gently altered my kids' assumptions about how things are "supposed" to be.

Is this really so terrifying?

So, as the battle over Prop 8 continues to rage, I think we should invite everyone who's in favor of banning gay marriage to a big ole Game of Life tournament. The first time someone puts a blue peg next to a blue peg, they'll probably object, say that's not how the game is played, accuse us of breaking the rules, maybe even turn nasty. But if we just point out it doesn't change anything for them, that we're not forcing THEM to have two blue or pink pegs in their front seats, that their odds of spinning a 10 or hitting a Pay Day aren't altered by what color pegs someone else is using--maybe they'll calm down and keep playing.

And maybe after a while, they'll stop even noticing the colors of the pegs, and focus on playing the game. Maybe they'll just let us drive our little plastic cars through our career choices and baby births and lay-offs and tax return days and into our golden retirement years with our little peg families made out of any colors we want.

Maybe it will gradually sink in that, whatever the color of our peg companions, we're all dealing with the same stuff: taking care of our kids, dealing with aging and dying parents, trying to make ends meet while saving for the future, finding time to relax with friends, balancing professional ambition with family life, and so on.

You know, all that life stuff, with a lowercase "l."

I was enchanted by this essay when I read it on Claire's blog and asked her if she would update it and present it here as a guest post. I'm so glad she agreed! Remember that awesome rainbow jello mold? Claire made that. Oh, and she's also one of the two engines behind Bookstore People, a blogsite that's all about (and reviews) independent bookstores. How cool is that? How cool is she? Doesn't it make you want to run out and play that Game of Life?


MotherReader said...

Thanks for sharing that post - both of you. It was beautifully put. Especially how no one is forcing you to put different pegs in your car and maybe you'll just go on playing the game without worrying about it.

It hits on what positively baffles me about this fight - that it needs to be a fight at all. Why do people feel the need to go out of their way to deny rights to a another group of people, when it doesn't affect the first group at all? And not think that's kind of Wrong to do?

My kids would hear little bits about marriage equality or rights from ads or overheard conversations or such, and I always explained it simply for them. So now at 10 and 13 they can't see what the big deal is either.

Blogstradamus said...

That's great. It makes you want to play the upper case and lower case versions of the game. Perhaps the game makers can make more colors for the pegs...

Angela said...

Lee, u know the coolest people.
Count me in as another parent who has trouble explaining the legal battles to their kids. They also don't see why it is an issue for two people who love each other to get married. Maybe it's my fault for telling them when they first asked at age 3 & 4 that it was possible. Because at the time, I didn't think the US would still be fighting about it 10 years later.

fairyhedgehog said...

This is a great guest post!

Tricia said...

I love this post. I wish more families talked to children about possibilities and why every person should be able to choose who they love without repercussion.

Thanks for sharing.

Adrienne said...

Very nice post. :)

Jen Robinson said...

I really like this post, too. The idea of using the game of LIFE - it's so simple, yet so powerful. Like Pam, I'm pretty much baffled by the whole fight. But this post helps, somehow.

Ann Brown said...

The best way to teach our kids is by simply living out what we believe in. Just pair a blue peg with a blue peg. Thank you, Claire, for that story.
Now, if only it would work that way with the careers in the game of Life, as well. I think I will choose a card that says "millionaire", and voila!

Little Willow said...

Wonderful post. Thank you, Claire for writing it, and Lee for sharing it! Whatever color pegs are beside each other, people should be happy. Love is love.

I only played The Game of Life once. When I was informed that I "had" to get married and "had" to have kids, I became very upset. "I don't want to have kids, and I'm probably not going to get married. Couldn't I just work on my career instead?" I was so annoyed!

MASH (the scribbled-on-paper game, not the movie-turned-TV-show) always bothered me for the same reasons, because of questions that required four names of possible future spouses (I didn't want to list anyone because I had no romantic interests) and four different numbers of kids (I wanted to put zero on all four lines).

Anonymous said...

Claire, thank you for that thoughtful post and thank you Lee for sharing. I still can't wrap my head around the dichotomy between "we're all born equal in rights" and the discrimination that is blatant in prop 8 situation. It's like classifying humans; that is old and was wrong from the beginning. If we're all equal (and that's not even a question), shouldn't we have equal rights? Even a kid gets that.

Jodie said...

Aww I remember when I thought just like her kids and then people would start telling me I needed to have justifications for my beliefs, it couldn't just be 'I think this is ok because it is' it has to be backed up with science, or history, or (forbid) scripture to be a valid point of view. It's nice to see someone whose managed to hold onto those basic ideas.

Michelle Zink said...

Hi, Lee!

Thanks so much for your comment on my site. I'm so glad I found yours!

This is such an excellent post. As a single, straight, mother-of-four, it really moved me. My children, ages 10-17, join in my disappointment over the struggle for gay marriage. It's all love to us.

And how can love be wrong?


Mama Librarian said...

That is a fantastic example of how to share your beliefs with your children. We have many lesbian and gay friends with children and my children see examples all the time of same sex couples.

Becker said...

We had a similar experience when playing Life with a friend's daughter. She was about 10 at the time, and decided on her own to mix things up with who was marrying who in her car (and no, I don't think it was because she was playing with a female couple--she even asked us if it was ok--I think it was because she wanted to break the "rules" and have fun). It prompted a great discussion, and this kid is one of the biggest advocates for equal treatment for EVERYONE that I know. Thanks for the post!