Sometimes You Have to Lose to Win

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Perfect Game.”

We lined up the life size chess pieces in the brutal sun, and I thought to myself how much of life was strategy. This was just the latest of a series of many failed attempts to connect with my teenage son during our latest family camping vacation. I had picked a campsite with as many amenities as possible for the teen set – boat rentals, wi-fi (though limited), swimming, and games, like the one we were attempting now. Yet he had thwarted my attempts at conversation and had spent much of his time camped out in front of the little campground store, sucking energy and wi-fi off the campground grid. He refused to sit around the campfire and talk, preferring online chatting with his friends back home. He grudgingly hiked with us, quickly leaving us in his younger, more agile dust. Even when I suggested a game, he simply stated that his brother wouldn’t want to play. When I emphasized that I meant with me, he paused, then reluctantly accepted.

Once the pieces were laid out on the lawn. He indicated for me to begin with a somber nod of the head. I looked at my son, once a smiling, curly-headed boy who used to cuddle up on the couch with me to watch a movie, who used to lay out on a blanket under the tree as I read to him. Here he stood, tall and strong, confident in the knowledge that he would surely beat me. I half rolled, half picked up the heavy pawn and moved it two spaces forward. He quickly made his move. I scanned the board. I made another move, followed quickly by his. This pattern continued, and I managed to hold him off for a while, but soon he began to take out my key pieces. First my knight was lugged off the board, followed by a bishop. I managed to keep my king and queen safe for quite some time. At some point in the game, a preschool girl approached with her mom and started putting pieces back on the board. He was unfazed, and continued his assault as I removed them. Her mom lovingly distracted her into a new investigation, and our game continued.

I thought how odd it was to play chess with such a large board, and with such large pieces. The perspective was different, skewing the strategy. Playing on a table-top board gives you a good vantage point to see what’s coming, allowing you to plan for the next move. This life-size game was throwing me. Parenting this stranger was throwing me. Like chess, everything was much easier on a smaller scale.

My son started closing in. He lined up his bishop, but I thwarted his move. He grabbed his heavy rook and lined it up as well. I maneuvered my remaining bishop into a defensive position. I could tell my options were quickly becoming limited. I had my remaining pawns arranged to take out his key pieces should they make an attempt, but he was one step ahead of me, lining up his flanking moves. I made a misstep, he moved his rook, and with a subtle smile said, “Checkmate.”

I just smiled. For me it wasn’t about winning. It was just about playing the game.

“Ping-pong?” he asked.

I smiled again. Sometimes you have to lose to win.

Familiar campground scene

Hello world!

This is my second blog. My first blog documented my journey from couch potato to becoming an older runner. I’ve never been much of a talker. I am usually found sitting quietly on the sidelines, taking it all in (thus the blog name). Writing is my form of self-expression, of becoming a part of the world and part of the greater discussion.

My dreams of becoming a writer began in middle school, when my English teacher asked me if she could display one of my poems. Being the incredibly self-conscious person I was, I declined the offer. But the seed was planted. This drive to write had created a positive reaction in my reader. Many years have passed and the drive is still there. Am I still nervous about opening up? Absolutely! But my new favorite mantra is: What would you do if you were not afraid? Well, this is high on the list, so I’m doing it.

20150102_083412Over the years, I have written mostly for myself. I have chronicled my quiet, normal life through journals. I have written letters to the editor that never got sent. (I tend to be a procrastinator more than anything else.) I have written long, drawn out letters to my friends, and wordy, reflections on my teaching practices. But I’ve never really put myself out there for the general public… until now.

I hope to use this blog to make a difference, Phone Pics 2363to spark discussion about topics that are pertinent to our time, including raising teens, environmental issues, societal changes, and civics (as opposed to politics, which is quite the dirty word). I also want to sharpen and hone my writing skills in order to hopefully fulfill my someday dream of being published. I love hiking, exploring, and cooking, so those will probably come up in my blog from time to time. I am also an avid photographer, so I started a second blog for photos only. My wish is that there is something here you find compelling, and I hope to hear from you!

Continue reading “Hello world!”