Today it was my turn to sit at the game table to play Go Fish with my little friends. I’ve been making my college-student-volunteer do it on her days (she is endlessly patient), and my assistant and Americorps member have both recently had their turns. I couldn’t really avoid it any longer.
If you have not played cards with preschoolers before, you may not be able to picture just why it would be so exhausting that the grown-ups take turns being in charge, but trust me, it’s tiring. It’s also wonderful.
They never know whose turn it is, so it was my job to keep them on track. “Okay, Wren, now it’s your turn.”
Wren would say, “Monkey, do you have a…..this?” and show her green triangle card, and before Monkey could say “Go fish,” I’d jump in and model for Wren: “Do you have a green triangle?”
Wren would start over. “Monkey, do you have a green triangle?” Monkey would look at his cards, one by one, and maybe put some of them down on the table, face up (“He’s showing his cards!” Roo would chortle, and then fall out of his chair), and then say, “Nope, go fish!” with a look of pure delight.
“My turn!” Roo would shout, and then I’d have to remind him that it was someone else’s turn, and so on and so on. We were using shape and color cards today, so they needed lots of reminding about the rhombus and the octagon, and even sometimes with the triangle and the rectangle.
We also had a lot of “Do you got a blue circle?” I would repeat, every time, “Do you have a blue circle?” and if I was lucky, the child would say it again, correctly this time: “Do you have a blue circle?” But next time ’round, it would be “Do you got a pink heart?” and I’d have to model the correct way to say it again.
Monkey had no sense of strategy whatsoever. He kept showing his cards without any understanding that you’re giving other people an advantage when they get to see your cards. Roo took advantage, every time. He’d see something in Monkey’s hand that he had, and start bouncing in his seat, and when it was finally his turn he would say triumphantly, “Monkey, do you got a black square?!!!” and Monkey would look with amazement at his hand and say, “Oh my God” and hand it over, and Roo would start to fall out of his chair again, and Monkey would be grinning with delight that Roo had just managed to get another match.
Each time a child made a match and put the two cards on the table, they would bounce with joy. When they started counting (“I got four matches and you have only one!”) I had to remind them that the matches didn’t matter; you win the game by being the first one to get rid of all your cards.
First one to get rid of all his cards was Monkey.
“Monkey, you won!” I said, putting both fists in the air.
He looked at me in shock. Then he put both fists in the air, and said “I won! I won! Oh, my God, I won! Congratulations!” He jumped up and did a little march over to the art center, pumping his fists, dancing, and saying “I won! I won!” No one except me noticed, but he wasn’t doing it for attention. He was marching and dancing and pumping for the pure joy of the moment.
He sat back down. “I’m so proud of myself.” His face was lit up with happiness. “It’s so exciting. It’s so gratulations!”
It was. It was very gratulations for all of us. Forty-five minutes later, we had to stop for clean-up time, but they were still raring to go, and I was wiped out.