Like life, in real card games, there are no do-overs. 

Growing up meant multiple decks of Bicycle Playing cards with a snazzy bike drawing or sword-wielding warrior inside the spade. Blue or red, each child had a pack with our names—Jackie, RoseMary, and Joey—scrawled across the box. We scribbled our names in our individual favorite Crayola Crayon choice. These decks were separate from the good packs set aside for our parents to use. That rule was put into place after one too many rambunctious and overactive games of War. Yep, we bent and mutilated far too many decks of cards.

In addition to those raucous battles, we specialized in highly competitive and fiercely fought rounds of Rummy. Oddly, when we three close-in-age kids played together, we were less determined to win than when we played against Mom. It was the same attitude we had when we played my much loved (still) Parchessi. Given a chance to send a competitor’s piece back to start, it would be, “I hate to do this, but….” Hilarious for siblings to act that way toward each other, don’t you think? Or proof that our parents raised us with a bit of consideration for others? Good job, folks!

Klondike cards
Klondike card game

Our Card Playing Mom

Mary was a fierce warrior. For all the do-unto-others she taught us, she showed her children zero game-related mercy. We weren’t allowed to pout or stomp off as sore losers no matter how many times she slaughtered us. She taught us the lessons of sportsmanship. Mom taught us that winning, while nice, wasn’t as important as doing your very best. She only gloated at her triumphs when we were fortyish-year-olds.

Mom continued to kick our behinds at games throughout her life, whether it be cards, Rummikub, or Scrabble. While she liked Uno and Clue, Dad tended to triumph at those, which probably kept them from being Mom’s favorites.

Mom taught us how to deal two versions of Solitaire. This game was a last resort when siblings weren’t available to amuse each other. Or more probably, when we’d had a huge fight and were exiled to individual rooms of the house. When we were growing up, the bedrooms of children weren’t the oasis of childhood they are now. Life was lived outside of the bedroom, in fact, most of our childhood was lived out of doors. I wonder what parents do today instead, go to your room—oasises of computers, electronic games, TVs, etc.

Mom was an ace (I couldn’t resist) at winning what I still deem to be the hardest version of Solitaire. The game laying out seven stacked piles, continuing laying out cards face up, working to rearrange them suit on suit. I can’t find a video or rules for this game—maybe someone can help me? With the patience of a stone cutter, Mom would study the cards. She would invariably find a move that six sets of eyeballs sitting around her, enthralled, missed. It was, and remains, too difficult a challenge for me to derive any enjoyment from.

Klondike is My Favorite Solitaire Card Game

Last summer, I started distracting myself from technology time-to-time by playing Klondike. You deal out seven stacks, alternating colors in sequences until eventually getting the piles built from aces to kings. Maybe I win a third or quarter of the time. I don’t mind when I lose or keep track of my wins. For me it’s about discerning the best possible move again and again. When the cards fail me, I think, what if I had moved that one instead? Would I have won? I shrug and reshuffle.

It’s always the strategy of any game that intrigues me the most. Do I play the five of clubs or the five of spades? We were taught no undoing your decision. When your fingers left the card, your play was set. Whatever the outcome, you’d made your choice and had to move on from it. Like life, I make a choice, I make a calculated selection and get to see what happens next.

 Like life, in real card games, there are no do-overs. Click To Tweet

Ponder that lesson versus computer cards. With a computer you get a do-over, replaying the same game time and time again until you win. When our parents got pcs, they shared an elaborate el-shaped pine desk Dad made. They’d sit in their office, close enough to reach out and touch each other, far enough away to have breathing room. They would play individual games of Freecell, creating their own competition. My parents tracked how many times they each had to play the same game before winning it—funny folks, eh?

Solitaire With Real Cards is Like Life 

You can reshuffle the deck and lay out a new game, playing through to a conclusion—winning or losing. But you cannot play the exact same game again. That card layout is gone—it’s physically impossible to duplicate what was. 

Life is Like That Completed Game of Solitaire 

What we do in our pasts is there—unchangeable. We can step into the future away from our past actions, leaving our mistakes along with the good decisions. Life leads us to proceed to our next solitary option. 

But we don’t get a do-over.

More than ever in this technology-driven world, our children need to learn that there are consequences to their actions. One of our jobs is to teach children to avoid getting lulled into thinking every choice gone wrong can be fixed. They have to know every challenge can’t be conquered, that they can’t win every game every time. 

There are instances we’ll lose in life—none of us are the non-stop, ever-achieving Golden Child of perfection. Sometimes we lose a card game, the promotion we’ve been striving toward at work, or our book deal falls through. 

Occasionally we lose something more serious and intimate. Someone we love is gone, an accident claims a part of us, life makes a drastic detour ending in divorce. This is the way that living rolls at us full-tilt no matter what plans we’re making.

It’s our ability to Go Forward after the loss and the change, that makes us who we are: strong, resilient, purposeful. We accept the cards we’re dealt, that makes us who we are: strong, resilient, purposeful. Help kids learn that lesson when they are kids and adulthood may not be so difficult and full of angst.

And hey—Bicycle Playing cards are still made in the USA and a deal at Target: $2.99 for a nice red or blue deck. Let me know how the lessons go.

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Read: Parents and idle threats