Growing up, my sisters and I loved to play What shall I be? First appearing in 1966 and categorized as educational, it was proclaimed The Exciting Game of Career Girls. Based upon the roll of the dice and the acquisition of cards, players would race be the first to line up a job.
The box’s cover featured a dorky-looking girl, herculean pink bow in her hair, index finger on her cheek, looking as if as if couldn’t decide between all those career exciting opportunities. To her left were six women, one of whom would be this girl’s future self.
To be an airline hostess, the girl would attend airline training school; if she wanted to be an actress, she’d to go drama school. The nurse went through nursing school. The model went to charm school. And that gorgeous ballet dancer with the pink tutu? She went to ballet school. Only the teacher went to college, and she probably had to, poor thing. While all of the other women featured on the box were reasonably attractive, the teacher—with those ugly glasses and her helmet head hair—was downright dowdy.
The message was clear: Only ugly women went to college.
Two years after the introduction of this game, a boys’ version came out, with career and school choices a tad more interesting: Boys wanting to become statesmen attended law school; future scientists went to graduate school; college was for future athletes; doctors faced med school; engineers attended technical school and astronauts went to flight school.
Girls and boys were handed the expectations of their culture through that game. And to this day, games continue to teach children the values of the culture in which they live.
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When she was two, Filibuster’s absolute favorite game was Candy Land. This game, presumably straight from hell, featured plastic figures that had to navigate an interminably long board by means of color-coded cards in order to reach the Candy Castle. There were other cards, too—Mr. Mint, Gramma Nutt, Queen Frostine—that could work to your advantage by sending you forward in the game, sometimes almost to the end. But there was a risk inherent in the cards as well: Just three spaces from the Candy Castle, you could draw the nefarious Lord Licorice and be sent to back to the game’s beginning.
My husband and I quickly tired of Candy Land. We frequently buried it deep within the bowels of the toy closet, preferring anything—even a glittery art project—to the game. But Filibuster found it every time, dug it out and persuaded us to play. As soon as someone reached the Candy Castle, however, she would begin to cry. Even if we fixed it so she would be guaranteed to win, she would cry. We tried to extend the game: Not only would one person have to reach the Candy Castle, everyone did.
But still, Filibuster cried.
She enjoyed moving her little yellow figure around the board, sometimes even up the Rainbow Pass. She enjoyed the suspense of drawing the color cards—hoping she would be the one to get Queen Frostine. She enjoyed the process of playing the game.
We did not.
We tried a new tactic: As soon as someone reached the Castle, usually Filibuster, due to a bit of trickery with the cards, my husband and I would clap wildly and cheer, even jump up and down, if we had to, until Filibuster rewarded us with a big grin.
Finally, Filibuster understood what my husband and I were trying to teach her: Playing the game wasn’t what mattered.
Labels: Boys, Culture, Daughters, Games, Girls, Raising Children, Rules, Sons, the red dress club: