My older daughter Molly’s love affair with Monopoly started when she was seven. I blame the fact that we had two strategy books about Monopoly in the house. The fun part of Monopoly is the wheeling and dealing, trying to construct a trade that will be sufficiently beneficial to the other person that they’ll actually go for it. The un-fun part of Monopoly is that it takes forever to get through a whole game. Also, you usually know an hour in who’s going to win, but it takes several hours more to grind through the game play all the way to the end. Molly, of course, thought that Monopoly was the best game ever.
She would beg us to play it with her, but more often than not we’d refuse. On a fairly regular basis, she would talk her younger sister Kiera into starting a game, but Kiera was almost never willing to finish a game. They’d lay it all out, get around the board four or five times, and then Kiera would get bored or annoyed with Molly and quit, which would sometimes be accepted with good grace, but more often resulted in a meltdown from Molly as she demanded that we make Kiera come back and finish the game.
Molly (who is now 14): There were times when I would have been perfectly happy if she’d just forfeited the game. But she wouldn’t forfeit, she’d just say, ‘no! I’m not playing with you!’ She was actively refusing to forfeit. I tried to impose various rules to get her to stop quitting, like the if-you-quit-you-have-to-pick-up-the-game-all-by-yourself rule.
Me: How’d that go for you?
Molly: It didn’t work. She didn’t do it! And you guys wouldn’t make her do it, either!
“How do I deal with a child who’s a bad loser?” was a pretty common game-related question among my fellow parents of seven-year-olds. Molly wasn’t a bad loser. Actually, she was an extremely good sport about losing, and had been ever since discovering the concept of games. “How do I deal with a child who freaks out when her four-year-old sibling gets tired of playing Monopoly and wanders off?” was not what anyone else was asking. Although thinking back, surely I was not the only parent out there with this problem.
Occasionally, we sucked it up and played with her, but most of the time, Molly was stuck playing Monopoly by herself. Or rather, with her imaginary friend, Other Molly. Other Molly was a pretty terrible Monopoly player and Molly beat her almost every time. I think she made all the dumb mistakes the strategy books will warn you to avoid, like she had favorite properties and would make bad deals if they got her her favorite properties, and she wouldn’t hock stuff she already owned to buy stuff that was new. She also never built houses (or hotels, presumably), so Molly’s rent stayed pretty cheap.
Other than the chronic bad decision making, though, Other Molly was pretty satisfying to play with: she didn’t cheat, she never messed up the board, she never ever ever quit mid-game and like the original Molly, was a very good sport about losing. On one occasion, Molly tried chess with Other Molly. Other Molly was even worse at chess than she was at Monopoly. Molly pulled off a four-move checkmate, decided it was too easy, and decided to capture the rest of Other Molly’s pieces as well.
Eventually, thank goodness, someone (probably my sister) gave us a copy of Settlers of Catan. This also required three people and took a while to play, but was vastly more fun to play (and was also the whole family’s gateway to the world of much better games). Molly switched over to begging us to play Settlers of Catan (and Set and Dominion).
Molly: The trouble with Settlers is that you had to both be home. You can play Monopoly with two people but you cannot play Settlers with two people.
Me: Which is why I got a copy of the two-person Settlers card game.
Molly: (nostalgic sigh) Yeah.
She also learned to play Solitaire, which luckily doesn’t require an imaginary friend who makes bad decisions.