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

In our home growing up there were multiple decks of Bicycle Playing cards with that snazzy bike drawing or maybe the sword-wielding warrior inside the spade. Blue or red, each child had a pack all their own—separate from the “good decks” set aside for our parents use. This rule got put into place after one too many overactive games of War with the resulting bent and mutilated cards!

In addition to those raucous battles, we specialized in highly competitive and fiercely fought rounds of Rummy. When we kids played alone, we were far less determined to win than when we played against Mom. Mary was a fierce warrior and showed us zero mercy—a good lesson to learn about sportsmanship.

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

We were taught how to deal two versions of Solitaire, a last resort when siblings weren’t available … or more probably, when we’d had a huge fight and were exiled to individual rooms of the house. Mom was an ace (I couldn’t resist) at winning what I still deem to be the hardest version of Solitaire—where you lay out your seven stacked piles and continue laying out the cards face up, then work to rearrange them suit on suit. I can’t find a video or rules for this game—maybe someone can help me out? With the patience of a stone cutter, mom would study the cards and invariably find a move that six sets of eyeballs sitting around her missed. It was, and remains, too difficult a challenge for me to find any enjoyment in.

Last summer, I started entertaining myself with Klondike. You deal out seven stacks then alternate colors played in sequences until you can eventually get the piles built from aces to kings. I win maybe 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 and wondering when the cards fail me—what if I had moved that one instead? Would I have won?

Klondike cards

Klondike card game

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.

Ponder that lesson versus computer cards where you get to a do-over or replay the same game until you win. When our parents each got pcs, they had an elaborate el-shaped pine desk Dad made. They’d sit in their office, close enough to reach out and touch each other but far enough away to have breathing room, playing Freecell. They’d keep track of how many time they had to play a game over 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 from our past actions, mistakes along with good decisions, and proceeding to our next solitary option. But we don’t get a do-over.

In this technology-driven world we’ve built, more than ever our children need to learn that there are consequences to their actions so they avoid getting lulled into thinking every choice gone wrong can be fixed, every challenge can be conquered, that they can win 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 simple card game, the promotion we’ve been striving toward at work, or the book deal that falls through. 

Occasionally we lose something more serious and intimate—a person we love is gone, an accident claims a part of us, our home 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 always our ability to Go Forward after the loss, the change, that makes us who we are: strong, resilient, purposeful.

So folks,

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