If there is one thing that I enjoy being, it’s being an Uncle. . Being with my nieces and nephews is one of my new found greatest pleasures. I am grateful to my brothers and sister for these little blessings in my life. Being and Uncle is a role that brings me much pleasure and a role I take very seriously. While having fun with the little ones and rolling around with them on the floor, or what have you, I not for a moment forget, or neglect what example I am giving them as an elder in their life, or what life lessons they may get from our experience together.
So with that, I strive to make all of our encounters not only fun and loving, but full of learning. In our fun and games, I find ways for them to be mind enhancing and expanding, and yesterday was no exception. My brother, sister-in-law and three kids sat at a restaurant waiting for our food, when the waiter came and brought them coloring books that had tic-tac-toe games on it, and crayons.
Right away, two of the family members started playing tic-tac-toe like we’ve all played it for years. And the thought occurred to me that even a tic-tac-toe game could be mind expanding, but I wasn’t sure how at first. When my niece placed the paper with the game on it, in front of me, I had an idea. Since she was using one color crayon and I another color crayon, it was obvious which marker would be hers and which one would be mine. So, technically, I didn’t have to stick to an “X” or an “O,” I figured I could use a different marker. So I used a symbol, to which my niece responded by using a symbol of her own with her next move. Well, I thought, why stop and one symbol, why not use another? Which I did. Immediately, my niece marked her next move with another completely different symbol, and a clever one I might add.
I laughed and she laughed too, and we high-fived each other. The way I look at it, the reason we are playing a game is not for the sake of the game, but to enjoy each other, share, experience and it doesn’t matter much how the game itself is played as long as we both agree each step of the way, and no one is hurt, but on the contrary, we are all better because of the experience.
I have to say, it got challenging after awhile to come up with different symbols each time, and the game became more about who could be the most clever of the two trying to out surprise each other with our symbols. Each time she would come up with something clever, she would smile and wait for a reaction from me. Of course, I would not disappoint, and my reaction would be one of surprise, but not just because I wanted to please her, but because I was genuinely pleased with how creative she was being.
The game took on a whole new dimension. Not only were we needing to keep our eye on “winning” the tic-tac-toe game, but we were making our minds work doubly hard trying to “win” the clever game. As we were playing we heard laughter at the other end of the table and as we both turned to look, we noticed every family member was playing tic-tac-toe just like we were and were making each other laugh with the symbols they were using.
I have to admit, I was proud of myself for making a fun game more fun, and better yet, mind expanding and creative for the whole family. But I was soon to be even prouder, and not of myself, but of my niece who took the game to a whole new level. Though she is still very young, she showed me how she could take my encouragement to think outside the Tic-Tac-Toe Box and game, and not only meet me, but raise the bar.
As we played our final game before our food arrived, just when it looked like I was about to win the game, my young niece draws a box outside the normal nine boxes, at an angle that would allow her to have a diagonal win, draws a line through all three boxes and says, “I win!” And win she did. What I had done was enhance the game, which was good and fun, but what she had done was change it completely.
Though some might say she was cheating, I say she was changing the game. I had a choice to continue playing with the new rules or ask her to revert back to the old rules. Knowing her she would have been fine with either. I of course, would have chosen the mind expanding experience of trying to play the game with anyone being able to place boxes anywhere they want. Of course, we would have had to lay new ground rules if we wanted to have a clear “winner,” but the food had arrived and we were on to something else.
But to me, there were two obvious clear winners, one was my niece who was able to let her young mind think outside the Tic-Tac-Toe box, and the other was me, who enjoyed the most wonderful moment of my day! And life changes!