I’ve just been playing cards with my 10-year-old son, Rogan. We ended up playing pontoon and I had in my hand a king and an ace – pretty much an unbeatable hand.
So I said to my son, “Tell you what, would you like a bit of a gamble? – If you win, you get to stay up half an hour later, but if you lose, you go to bed in 10 minutes.”
Now Rogan is a smart lad, and he knew, or really should have known, that I wouldn’t say something like that unless I had a damn good hand. To be honest I just expected him to roll his eyes and ignore me, but stupidly he said, “Ok then!”
Of course, he lost, but then got really upset about it. I’m now feeling like a bit of a bastard, but I can’t back down now. This is nothing to do with testosterone driven posturing, but everything to do with the fact that he has to learn that you never enter a bet unless you’re prepared to lose.
“But you knew I’d lose!” he wailed, “It’s not fair!”
“But you knew I wouldn’t have done this unless I was pretty sure I’d win. You should never have agreed to it,” I tell him, but it doesn’t help matters.
I make a mental decision that if he accepts his lot, and gets his pyjamas on, then I’ll say that because he’s clearly learned his lesson then he can stay up until his usual bedtime after all. Unfortunately he gets even more upset and I end up having to threaten him with an earlier bedtime tomorrow night unless he gets ready for bed right now, as he agreed to when he entered the terms of the gamble.
I begin to worry that the emotional arms race is accelerating towards Mutually Assured Destruction, but he backs down at this point and stomps up the stairs.
I hope he’s learned that gambling is for fools, unless you’re prepared to accept the consequences. However, I fear the lesson he’s learned this evening is that Dad is a bastard who’ll con his own son and is not to be trusted.