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Memories & Special Bonds

How A Game Turned Into A Little “Tradition”

This is how one little “family tradition” (if one may call it that), came to be, a couple of years back.

Why Games Are Important - How A Game Turned Into A Little "Tradition"

We’d never really had any “family tradition”, per se, in terms of daily habits or weekend habits. Why does one need a family tradition or a family ritual to look forward to anything? No, one does not. I agree. Simple pleasures of life come in little things, not necessarily packaged. I do totally agree and we, as a family, have learnt to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. All of us.

We still thought that it would be nice to have some sort of an informal tradition going on. A sort of glue that holds everyone together, in the same place at the same time doing the same thing and enjoying it. To be honest, it even has this sense of security associated with it. Something that says “OK no matter what, no matter the changes in the outside world, there are some things within the family that don’t change – even with the passage of time.” I honestly believe that a family tradition is one such.

Tall order, huh? It would give us quality time as a family, a span of time when the whole family is together, with each other, laughing, playing. Somehow, something had planted that seed in my mind – that it would be nice to see the whole family involved in some activity together.

What I had really missed out on was actually “doing” something together with the kids. When they were a lot younger, we used to read together. That was not happening anymore, since both Macadamia and Pecan were absolutely avid readers in their own right and each had a different taste in books.

Somewhere along the way, reading to/with the children ceased and each one of us drifted off into our own world of books. Individual paths were laid and as far as the book world went, these paths ran parallel to each other – they did not converge.

When the kids were a lot younger, they too used to love to potter around with the craft stuff that I normally used to create odd bits and pieces like homemade greeting cards, birthday cards, bookmarks, pencil jazzers, coasters, rakhis etc… They used to love playing with materials of different textures like felt, foam boards, sequins, thread, glue, glitter glue and what have you. We used to form a cosy little band sitting and “creating” things.  That kind of slowed down to a trickle too, as they grew up.  If at all, it was me who still hung on to those creative craft ideas, because it brought about a very deep sense of satisfaction to potter around with all that stuff and to create something concrete out of them.

When the kids were a lot younger, when they were in kindergarten and early primary, pillow fights were quite common just before bedtime. The kids’ bedroom would look as though a typhoon had passed right over it. Everything would be askew, yet in the midst of all that confusion there was a definite huge “feel good” factor.

As Macadamia and Pecan have grown, all of these and lots more faded into the background. “How nice it would be if there were some activity that all of us were interested in, at the same time?” was a thought that ran through my mind ever so often.

There were commonalities – Pecan and Vic enjoy sport – watching it, playing it on the computer or following matches as they happen. It could be soccer, cricket, basketball. Macadamia and Yours Truly, in the meanwhile, would be poring over crossword puzzles or Sudoku puzzles, in an attempt to crack the whole thing and find the answers.

When was the last time we’d fought with each other over something, as a family? When was the last time we’d introduced that playful competitive spirit into something, as a family? When was the last time we’d ribbed each other over something common that we’d been doing?” were questions that found their way into my mind ever so often.

Like they say, things – many a times, happen inadvertently.

Now, when I look back, I cannot recall as to how UNO took centre stage with the entire family. For that matter, I don’t even remember when it happened. There have always been the occasional game of Scrabble or Word Power with the kids but those used to happen on rainy afternoons. Like I said, occasionally.

Somehow, UNO set its sights upon us and slowly but steadily, one by one, the whole family was roped in. In an odd sort of way, somehow, these little bunch of cards with their bright splashy colours and their cheeky “wild” cards and the defiant “wild draw four” cards to add spice to the whole endeavour, wriggled their way into our hearts. It happened sometime before the kids’ summer break began, a couple of years back. Timingwise, it could not have been more perfect.

Every night – well, almost every night (unless we’d had an outing and had come back home very late), during the summer holidays, we played UNO together to wind the day up. It’s surprising, what a little card game can do to make a family bond in those many little ways. Pretty much like a spider web, I’d say – flimsy threads yet so strong. This little “UNO in the night” tradition caught on like wildfire.

For those of you who are shaking your heads in disbelief and wondering what good can a game of cards do – well, there’s plenty good that’s come out of this little tradition that we’ve begun to enjoy as a family.

For one, Pecan used to be such a sore loser. He was one even when we first began to play UNO together every night. Over a period of time, he’s learnt to be a good winner and more importantly, a good loser.

When we play UNO together at night, there are no distractions. Phone calls are not entertained, there is no question of the TV being switched on (for we normally play UNO in the kids’ room) and there is no question of anyone being spaced out, thinking wishfully about wizards flying on broomsticks (or whatever it is they are called). This UNO time gets us to just focus on each other and more importantly, enjoy each other’s company. The competitive spirit is very much present, yet the atmosphere is very cosy.

Both Macadamia and Pecan learnt a lot about interpersonal communication. When to talk, when to pause to let the other person have a say, respect what the other person is saying, take it in the right spirit, wait for your turn and the most important thing this has taught them is to laugh at themselves every once in a while. Laughing at oneself is so therapeutic but it is so difficult to get that concept across to kids. We didn’t have to do that with Macadamia and Pecan. UNO did it for us.

While having a UNO night, there is absolutely no need for us to talk to each other. All it takes is to deal the cards and play. But people, you would be surprised to know how easily conversation flows. The atmosphere is much more relaxed than it normally is and under those circumstances, children really really talk. Much more that they normally do. They are more receptive to suggestions, they are more curious and more at ease asking questions, they do let out a lot of information about school – those little bits and pieces that inadvertently get missed out by the time they get back home, invariably surface when it’s UNO time.

Most importantly, a simple card game like UNO is sending across to the nutty siblings a very very important message. UNO is pretty much like life itself. And in the game of life too, it is not as much about being dealt a good hand, it is more about learning to play a poor hand well.

Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full-time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten-year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity