Of Scrabble and Other Games We Play~


Our family loves scrabble. From the old fogie parents like Kevin and I, to our teens, tweens, and toddlers. From the moment a child knows an A from a Z they want to play.

Clearly, a student who can barely read is a lousy speller and doesn’t know a proper noun from a participle. The “no proper nouns” rule is clueless to them. If they see their sibling’s name on their tile ‘pew’, they want to use it. When the littles are playing, until they have a few years of spelling and grammar under their belts, we allow proper nouns. It’s against the official rules but it’s a little thing our family calls ‘grace’ and we allow it at times like this.

Another ‘house rule’ we play with a lot is that we use 9 letter tiles instead of 7. We do this because it’s easier to find a word when you have 9 tiles and they fit on the pew so we go for it. I’m generally the resident score keeper, dictionary, and helper. The “referee” so to speak.

My job is to approve words, rearrange tiles to help a little one find a word without giving them the words, and in general, make the game fun for everyone playing.

Occasionally, I’ll notice that an older child is avoiding a name. I’ll remind everyone that we don’t have to avoid proper names this round. Sometimes, a little one feels cheated when I say that but I remind them that they’re used to playing by official rules and we’ve changed those rules to make the game easier and fun for them and it is wrong for me not to remind those who are used to playing by official rules that they CAN do something different.

Sometimes, the older children will get frustrated that the board is getting clogged with 2, 3, and 4 letter words (of the innocent kind of course!). At this point I go around the board to see if I can find any words that are nice long ones to open up the playing field. If I find one, I sit back down and say, “I found a seven letter word on a triple word score” or whatever the facts are. They decide together whether having fun with the game is important enough for me to give that information.

This does have a disadvantage of course. If the one with the good word is an older child, they’re likely to see it and be able to play it even if the consensus is no. But this is how the game is played. We have the rules this way because otherwise it’s a frustrating game for this wide age discrepancy. They agree, when they pick up their letter pew, that they’re to handle themselves well if the rule changes put them to a disadvantage.

Occasionally I blow it. I make a word call that is wrong. I think a word doesn’t exist that does or does that doesn’t. The child counter challenges me and we look at it. I admit I was wrong and we move on. I’ve been known to forget that it’s SEVEN tiles that you have to use for the 50 point bonus not NINE. The rules are, you watch how I score in case I do forget. It’s your job to let me know if I forget a bonus or something. IF someone remembers that another player got a 50 point bonus and didn’t receive it, I’ll often grant the bonus anyway. Someone piping up like that is a good thing and I want it rewarded.

So what is the point of all of this? Sometimes we play games with altered rules. When we first started playing Scrabble this way, we had to modify the rules until we got them clear cut. We didn’t know how things worked in real play so we even had to change mid game a few times but we got the bugs worked out and it plays well now.

When people disappoint you, look at their history. Did they blow it? Do they have a history of it? Is it possible that things are not how they seem? What about those around you? Do they have the same problem with the person that you do? What do they gain by their actions? Did it benefit them in any way or is it truly a flub? And finally, if you are so angry and bitter as to feel the need to attack, is it really that they are untrustworthy or is there some other reason? Can it be possible that maybe you’re blowing something way out of proportion?

Finally, if you really think the person you’re having trouble with is truly doing something wrong, have you asked them? When my children think I made a bad call, they ask. “Mom, I don’t understand why you did that. Now they get to-”

Sometimes they’re right. I don’t always like to see I’ve botched it but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to. But othertimes, there is more to my decision than they could immediately see. Sometimes I can make them see that, other times I can’t. But because they have a lifetime of me being just about my decisions, they don’t assume that I did what I did to deliberately hurt them.

I like to think that if my children can show this kind of maturity, the majority of adults can too. I sure hope I’m right.

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