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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Monotony

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Speaking of board games, why do 12-year-old boys love Monopoly so much?  After a 30-minute negotiation about whether the kids have to play a board game with their parents, our family then spends another 30 minutes trying to decide which game to play. Invariably, my son Dashiell lobbies for Monotony – I mean Monopoly.

Our games are stacked by box-size, with their titles prominently displayed for easy browsing. Though I’ve tried to bury Monopoly at the bottom of the stack and obscure the title, it never fails that my son will find that game, which, on a good day, takes three hours to play.  Since we’ve already spent an hour debating and arguing, that makes for a four-hour chunk of time devoted to a game about paying bills.

I’ve offered the kids the opportunity to bring their Monopoly experiences to life by allowing them to pay our actual household bills, but somehow they don’t seem as excited about that.  I’m half-convinced that my son chooses Monopoly only because he knows I don’t like it.  Perhaps he hopes I’ll give up on the idea of playing at all if I am forced to play Monopoly again and again.

But I don’t think that’s true, because he’s so animated while playing this game.  He buys Park Place and Boardwalk, packs them with hotels, then lets out this maniacal, villainous giggle whenever someone lands on one of those spaces, especially his teenage sister.  If his sister glances up from her phone long enough to respond, she typically shrugs and hands over her rent, making a comment like, “Oh darn!  Am I bankrupt? Shoot, I’m out. I better go up to my room. Let me know who wins.”  We later find several bright orange $500 bills under her chair.

My youngest begs to play games that take a ton of setting up. She loves Don’t Break the Ice, Mousetrap, and this horrible new game called Pie Face, which actually gets real whipped cream all over players’ faces, the carpet, the table, the curtains, and the chairs.  Why?  I ask you.  Why?  Do parents not have enough messes to clean up without purposefully smearing sticky whipped cream all over the house for the entertainment of their children?

So, when we are about two hours into Monopoly, Clementine is ready for her turn and will begin her own lobbying efforts.  Her lobbying efforts are quite similar to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

In the denial stage, we have her set up her own game at the other end of the table, merrily assuming that we are not playing Monopoly, but rather, Chutes and Ladders. Apparently, she reasons that if a person shouts, “It’s your turn!” enough times, eventually the rest of us will figure out our own true desires.

Once she moves past denial, she’s full-throttle anger, with stomping, yelling, and gnashing of teeth. Occasionally, we have a spilled drink during this stage, which explains why our Monopoly money smells like sour milk. There’s also a purple juice stain over B & O Railroad.

We then witness bargaining, with Clementine making deals with her siblings: “Dashiell, if you play Pie Face with me, I promise never to mess up your Lego sets again.” And even, “Millie, if you play Mousetrap with me, I will give you my birthday money.”

When these tactics fail (mainly because I refuse to allow Millie to accept the birthday cash in exchange for playing a messy game), she moves into depression.  We see a lot of crying under the table, and we hear a lot of maudlin statements like, “Nobody loves me!  I’m going to run away.  Why does everyone in my family hate me so much?”

And finally, we get to see acceptance, the end of the grief cycle, with Clem admitting defeat and going over to the other room to glue random items together and paste them to our freshly painted walls.

Meanwhile, I’m silently consumed with jealousy that Millie went bankrupt so quickly, and wondering if anyone would notice if I slipped a few hundreds onto Dashiell’s pile of cash.

Thanks for listening to Little Spouse on the Prairie.  Tune in next Sunday at 8:35.

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.