Parents must exercise patience when playing games such as Candy Land over and over.

Juan Garcia,

Family time: Bored games

  • Article by: DEBRA-LYNN B. HOOK
  • McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • May 7, 2012 - 9:36 AM

I know a dirty little secret about mothers. It involves Candy Land. We cheat.

"Yeah, I admit it, I used to fix the deck in Candy Land," says Kelley P. (who requested anonymity), whose two daughters are teenagers now and old enough to hear the truth. "You know how you always get up near the top and you get sent back down to the bottom if you pick the peppermint guy? I just took Mr. Peppermint, and others like him, out of there."

This best-selling game of lollipops and marshmallows -- invented in 1945, inducted in the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005 and named one of the "Top 10 Board Games We Secretly Hate" by in 2012 -- apparently is not the only morally corrupted territory of the board-game variety.

A modest Facebook poll of early-childhood motherhood behavior reveals Chutes and Ladders also to be the occasional target of mommy tampering. Yes, thanks to some moms, game-players never seemed to land in that one long sadistic chute that snatches them from the shadow of the finish line and dumps them into the harsh light of "Start Here."

Ditto Hi Ho! Cherry-O, which sees no bucket of cherries upturned in some families, lest the game begin anew.

Clue? I know of instances in which Colonel Mustard is secretly changed to Mrs. Scarlet.

The game Sorry? The possibilities for miscounting deceits are endless when one is sitting next to a 6-year-old who can only read "Hello, Kitty."

Meanwhile, it is Candy Land that is consistently defiled. It is that unreadable (because no reading is necessary), talent-less (because no strategy is possible) simple-minded race to Candy Castle that has sent generations of mothers into the murky bog of mommy deception.

This is not, by the way, because mothers want so desperately to win. It isn't even because mothers want their precious darlings never to fail. It is simply because mothers are bored.

"I just wanted to bang my forehead into the table over and over again while we played Candy Land," writes Kelly F (who also requested anonymity).

"I have not, nor will I ever, give Candy Land as a gift to some child, because I know it will only torment said child's parents," says Lorraine (who also needed anonymity).

"How did I get through it?" writes Amy (ditto). "I marveled at the beauty and wonder that is my daughter, noted every curve and turn of her face, the wave of her hair, her delicate fingers, daydreamed about who she will become, and drank a few beers."

The truth is out

For the record, I must say, I never once cheated at Candy Land. My game was Junior Monopoly, which I always made sure my 10-year-old son won. Not out of some sick desire to never see him fail. I lent him cash because I never wanted my winning, in particular, to result in his failing. This made me a communitarian. It also potentially ruined game-playing for us forever as my son did not learn, until much later, that mothers actually sometimes do like to win.

"That looks an awful lot like hubris on your face," the aforementioned former 10-year-old, now 23, accused me recently, after I won a very competitive family round of the very complicated Settlers of Catan.

"Uh, I believe you have hubris confused with joy in winning," I said. says board games have the potential to teach children valuable life lessons: sportsmanship; rules and ethics; you win some, you lose some; and even when things seem darkest, you can turn the game around.

I'm not sure they were talking about Candy Land and some of these other games over which mothers struggle.

Candy Land and other tedious family games might also teach children that Mommy never wants to play what they want to play.

Next up: Mothers who "lost" the "Wee Sing Family Christmas" video and skipped whole pages in the Berenstain Bears.

Debra-Lynn B. Hook is a syndicated columnist. Reach her at

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