Now in the third week of after-school nephew duty, we are settled into a routine. As he puts away his shoes and washes his hands, I unpack his backpack and check his daybook to see if K. had a Five Penny day (excellent behavior). This week he had a Four Penny day, due to playing when he was supposed to be working. His careful explanation of how he and a friend were spinning an Easter egg dripped with regret. Spinning a plastic Easter egg is, apparently, quite tempting when you are in the first grade. So I taught him a new word. Temptation: Being enticed to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain. I think he got it.
K. enjoys his vanilla yogurt with chocolate mini-chips while scouring a map of the United States for Miami, Amarillo, Portland (both!) or a place that begins with the “Th-“ sound. He picks the first letter and I spy a place for him to find. This is harder than you might think (for me)! And once I’m mentally exhausted by this activity, it’s on to shooting baskets in the basement where I am expected to add the points he scores rapid-fire-style, including knowing when it’s a three pointer (when he is shooting from close to the wall).
We are up to 1,200 points because we just append to the points from the days preceding. I must remember this, too. Combine this addition exercise with the constant banging of the ball against the laundry room door and Cocoa the chocolate lab insisting that I take her slimy chew toy. She puts in on my leg, my arm, my shoulder or, as I’m sitting on the steps, the top of my head – a sure way to get me to pick it up.
By now, my brain is near-fried and I’ve been repeatedly slimed and bludgeoned by a rubber chew toy. K. has been off the school bus only 45 minutes. Two+ hours to go.
The weather has returned to seasonal temperatures, so playing outside is off the table. And since I’ve discovered that the excruciating burning at the tip of my elbow is, in fact, Tennis Elbow, playing catch is out anyway. (Yes. Our games of catch from two weeks ago were not innocent. The cause of Tennis Elbow? Inflamed tendons (bursitis) from repetitive overexertion of the forearm. In other words, I’m getting old.)
How about a game? Connect Four is simple enough. K. loves this game and is very good. During the first match I ask him if he really wants me to try to win. As in, if I see a way to win, I should take it, right? He seems mildly horrified that I would even ask. Oh yes. I must try to win. I must not let him win. He knows the difference.
Eight rounds later, we are even at 4-4. All the chips get used up during our evenly matched games. Is this a good thing (for him) or a bad thing (for me)? No joke, K. has two or three possibilities he’s working on during each game. No joke, I really have to try to win. I decide here and now that I must teach him to play chess.
Next time, the chess lesson.