The Story Behind the Sweet Board Game

If you hang out around our house long enough, you will hear:


Make. Life. Pleasant.

In fact, last February, right after Jordan joined our family, we made a little book called MLP. As a family we staged different situations and took two photos. In one photo, we made life pleasant and in the other photo we didn’t.

For example, we set up a game and took one photo with everyone was sitting and playing. In the second photo, Jordan stood up and danced while Stephanie stood with her hands on her hips screaming and Sam played Legos and Hannah walked away.

We created a series of photos like this. Anytime there was an issue, I made a note of it and later — after tempers simmered down — we staged photos for our book. The book stayed out in the thick of family life…on the counter and in the car and on nightstands.

Sometimes it takes a long time to learn MLP. It’s been nearly a year since we became a family of six and we are still learning to make life pleasant.

We’ve been hunkered down for a few days now because of snow and cold temperatures. Naturally we brought out the board games. We love playing board games and Clue is one of our favorites. I posted this photo on Instagram, with the caption, “Better than TV.”

I’m not sure I told the truth.

It was a miserable game. One person took as much time as possible on his turn. He moved, then went back. He counted wrong and had to recount. He made an accusation and then changed his mind again and again and again. He hid game pieces and didn’t reveal them until we looked under the table and under the game board and under ourselves. He had to check every card eight times to decide if he could prove someone wrong.

Another person had to tell everyone what to do. It sounded a little like this: Mom it’s your turn. Roll the dice. That’s 7. You can move to the Hall. Or you can use the secret passage. Now make your accusation. You should guess Miss Scarlet. No, don’t guess that, we just had that one and Dad proved it wrong. You should guess the rope. Now pass the dice. Your turn is over. Just imagine this monologue for every single person on every single turn.

Add in phone calls and dropped cards and two drinks being spilled and a few arguments. The TV starts looking golden.

I remind myself we are the kind of family who has fun playing board games together. The TV simply disguises MLP with complacency.

So we persevered. Kind of. Eventually we set a timer and played until it dinged. Then we pooled our knowledge and won the game as a family.The game ended and the kids were all cheerful.

Andy and I were exhausted. “It’s a learning experience,” he said.

I might have rolled my eyes. I might have wondered if my life long favorite game was going to be donated to Goodwill. I might have wondered if my frazzled patience would last until bedtime.

The thing is this: If we don’t learn how to make life pleasant, then we just roll through life surviving. The world doesn’t need more people surviving. It needs people thriving. Perhaps the caption wasn’t a lie after all. It was so much better than TV…not because it was easier, but because it helped transform us into the kind of family we want to be, and that means we each thrive by being the individuals we are created to be.

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  1. I love this post, Ruth. I love it for its honesty, but also because I am there and have been there with my current class. I've been asked multiple times why I am wasting so much time teaching them character. I've explained over and over, I cannot expect what hasn't been taught and sometimes what I teach isn't mastered in one lesson. Thanks for this.

  2. Thank you for sharing the story behind the image and your thoughts about the caption. I believe everyone has had experiences of games not being purely fun. In our family “We don't stop until I win” is the most memorable phrase and I have seen a game board flying. Yet we keep playing. Life would be less without board games and the laughter and togetherness they can bring.

  3. I think it's a wonderful idea, the book of MLP scenarios. I just finished Peter Johnston's book for the 2nd time because I'm reading with a group, & he emphasizes we need to “teach” behaviors, not just assume they will happen. It does sound miserable, but you also showed perseverance & problem-solving to make it work. Whew!

  4. Thank you for writing this, Ruth. I so appreciate your transparency. Tom and I were just having the same conversation last night — about how TV is the path of least resistance, but it really doesn't teach the behaviors we're after. Today, as we hunker down again….just with one parent this time — me…I'm tired despite the encouragement of the shining sun outside. I love your MLP book; that is a fabulous idea! Will there be a third snow day??? Enjoy yours…

  5. Once again, I love the honesty in this post. I have enjoyed reading about all the strategies you have used to support your family and to create a family culture of love an acceptance for each other and to embrace time together.

  6. “The thing is this: If we don't learn how to make life pleasant, then we just roll through life surviving. The world doesn't need more people surviving. It needs people thriving. “
    Can I just say how much I love this bit? Your description of game time, Ruth, reminded me of a gazillion game times in years past – the fella you began with was my Ben, the bossy one described my girls. Game time was never perfect – and I wasn't wise enough to have a MLP book – but we persevered….even thrived. Thank you for your wise and wonderful story.

  7. This is the story of many families. Very few sit around and play the game as the perfect families of TV depict game nights. MLP, what a great idea! I may have to borrow that phrase. Eventually these moments will become the memories that they laugh over. Remember when . . .

  8. Ruth,
    I love this. Thank you for being so candid.

    You are teaching your children valuable life lessons. They will handle themselves better because of your patient reaction.

    I want to borrow MLP with my students. It's the reflective practices that children will take with them forever. Your children are so lucky to have you. I think it is neat that you are learning together.

    I remember some pretty big tantrums learning to bowl with my dad. I'm so grateful he didn't tolerate my behavior and continued to try to teach me anyway.

    Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your world,

  9. Good sportsmanship was always a part of playing games of any sort, and it was taught. With so many digital games and television, the interaction with others is not there as it is with a board game. It is hard to teach, MLP, but so necessary for so many things in life. And I think board games are great for helping that instruction. In the classroom, games were where most arguments happened, now that I think of it.

  10. Surprising what snowstorms can bring besides snow, wind, and ice– “Learning to make life more pleasant”………………mmmmmm One is never to old for that! I admire your quest to never give up and seek the best for all involved.

  11. MLP…totally an awesome creative idea for a family book. I don't remember doing board games as much as trying to play basketball or soccer as a family. We spend a very, very long time on the rules…so long that no one wanted to ever play when Emily was done. Clue…awesome game, always one of my favorites…my favorite to get mad about was Sorry ! Enjoy, enjoy sweet Ruth.