Parenting Solo: Do Trumps Say Every Time

When you’re playing cards, you are lucky to have a trump card. A trump card is one that is elevated above the rest – there may be entire trump suites as in Spades or Whist (the forerunner to Bid Whist). Regardless of the game, the rule is the same; the trump reigns supreme.

My family is full of serious card players. We have Bid Whist and Spades tournament s at our family reunions. I’m more of a spectator but these tourneys are fun even from the sidelines. One thing I love is that the rules of the game are strictly enforced. That way no one gets bent out of shape for not winning the trophy (Yeah, I told you we were serious).

Even my Uncle Ron, who morphs from jovial fishing buddy to fierce competitor during a tournament, will hand over a trophy albeit reluctantly as long as everybody played by the rules. No matter how much trash talk blew around the table, in the end it’s what you did with the cards that counted.

I find that rule is true in life and relationships. My wounded heart is still wrapped in bandages after ending a toxic, long distance romance. This made me want to think of ways to explain to my daughter how to sidestep pain like this and give her a leg up on understanding life. I thought of all of the words Mr. Long Distance and I said on the phone – all the pledges and promises – but in the end nobody did anything. No steps were ever made to build a life together. That’s when the rule finally crystallized. Do trumps say every time.

I’ve learned that no matter what you say – what you do reveals what’s really in your heart. You can say you love me – but you make no attempt to add something positive to my life. I can say I trust you but I put nothing of value in your care. Even simple household chores exemplify the rule. My daughter says she respects me but when I tell her to pick up her room or make those dirty dishes in the sink disappear – at first nothing happens. Then my evil twin – the fuss monster – has to roar before the chores get done. Aggghhh kids!

My Uncle Ron says he doesn’t let kids win when they play games with him. In a recent Wii competition with my 11 year old nephew he says it was fine with him that he won some and he lost some as long as they both followed the rules. “I think he just expected me to let him win at first, but he had to earn it” he said. “I could see he was proud of himself because he learned what he had to do to win and did it on his own”.

Now, I am a self proclaimed marshmallow parent and I am often guilty of telling my child to get into life’s game then carrying the ball across the finish line for her. I realize I need to move into the role of coach. Give her the skills she needs to succeed and then let her earn it on her own.

We’ve all heard the adage “Actions speak louder than words”. It should actually read, “Actions scream louder than words”. But people usually hear what they need to in order to survive. So often people press mute when it comes to the actions of friends and loved ones; only listening to what they say. After all the words usually sound better. For years I’ve made a living with words and I’ve learned not to trust them. Actions are not infallible either but they are usually a pretty good character gauge. Therefore the person watching my actions the closet from now on will be me.