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The C Word

Hi, here’s where I use the kids to admit my own terrible childhood habit of cheating at board games. I’m really pulling the covers off with this one. Enjoy.

There’s a nasty word in the air. It’s stopping games in playrooms across the country. Its whisper will bring fierce colour to the cheeks of seemingly innocent children. There will be fingers pointed and the low jet-plane engine whine of injustice filling the air.

The word is cheater. Or more specifically, “HE CHEATED!” And the response to this accusation is usually denial so righteous, it’s as if they’ve been accused of owning barbies. The adamance is such that they almost believe themselves. Blind to the fact that everyone can see their lying eyes.

I know this is true because as a kid I was a shameless and enthusiastic cheat. I cheated at scrabble, chess and cards. I tried to cheat during Trivial Pursuit but frankly, there were too many categories. I downloaded video game cheats for Prince of Persia, and I once cheated during netball, by baldfacedly convincing the umpire of a rule change. It wasn’t that I was morally deficient – just desperately hooked on the thrill of winning, in whatever form it took.

Eventually I discovered the far greater (and more addictive) glory of winning with my brains. I gave up the sly tricks, and my wiley skill-set has only recently re-emerged in steparent-hood.

This mispent youth of mine means I can sense the waft of an upcoming cheat from two rooms away. I can hear it in his tone of voice and see it in his eyes. His piratical yern for glory is thinly veiled in continuous bright offers to be the ‘Monopoly Banker’. Or in the snatch back of ‘misrolled’ dice. Or more obviously discerned in the injured tones of an opponent as they search for their ‘lost’ Ninjago spinner.

So what can I say to this boy of my ilk? This cheating boy who’s simply after the sugary rush of approval. For him, winning is a precious jewel, to be carefully polished and dropped into every conversation. It makes him feel whole and I understand. But I know more than that – the truth about the mirage he’s throwing up.

Because behind the smoke and mirrors of every cheater is fear. That we’ll be found out – for whatever it is we think we’re missing. Winning unjustly provides us with nothing but the perception of worth, and he’s going to need more than that to function in this world.

So please stepson – do what I say, not what I did – and everything else will turn out ok.

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