Chickadee is fully recovered. I am grappling with some mix of virus and allergies which has my sinuses going completely haywire, resulting in a monster headache for most of my waking hours. Monkey’s tolerance for… well… ANYTHING is plummetting rapidly, suggesting that he may be coming down with whatever this bug is.
So naturally, being the bright and logical person I am, I thought it would be a great idea to schlep the entire gang over to Family Bingo Night at school yesterday. Because what could be better for a couple of kids than having to sit still at a table for a prolonged period of time, in a place where there is a table heaped with possible prizes that they likely won’t be winning?
I’m going to blame my lapse in judgement on the sinus thing. Shut up.
We arrived early and I realized there would be trouble before we even sat down. The very perky woman behind the entrance table informed me that yes, it was $5 per person for the REGULAR books of bingo cards, but it was also another $1 for each SPECIAL bingo card, and those were the cards where you could earn prize packs like movie tickets and such rather than Dollar Store crap. Fine, we’ll take 3 of those as well.
She then handed me our card booklets and ONE of these delightful items. I blinked at her and pointed out that I hadn’t asked to buy one of those. “Oh, it comes with the cards!” she chirped. Oh, well then. Did we get one per person? “No, just one per family!”
Two kids. One marvelous bingo marker. The whining began before I even had time to put my hand back into my purse. $1 for an additional marker. Fine.
Inside, we staked out a table with friends and discovered that “join us for pizza” meant “please buy our overpriced pizza.” Oooookay. All of the children got a whiff of cheesy gooey goodness and started in with the “I’m starving!’ and “When are we going to eat?” and “Yoooouuuu saaaaaaid we could have piiiiiiiiza!” Fine. Pizza for everyone. For a few minutes there was blessed silence, save for the sounds of earnest chewing.
The room filled up. They ran out of pizza. (My friend and I had bought the first couple of pies, and so our kids were perfectly happy. However, several of the parents were shooting death glares in our general direction.) They announced that more pizza would be coming, and that it was time to start playing. How exciting!
The children all took their greasy pizza hands and picked up their INDELIBLE BINGO MARKERS and started marking off the center “free space” of all their cards with wild abandon. In no time at all, we had a table full of children still smelling faintly of cheese and covered in multicolored dots. I took out the baggies of pennies I’d brought to use as markers and stared at them sadly. They wouldn’t have made a mess. The children wouldn’t be waving them around like swords. Such lovely pennies.
Now it was time for the first round. The caller went through the numbers and Chickadee carefully marked off her card while I placed pennies on mine and helped Monkey find the numbers on his. He only dabbed my fingertip with his marker in his haste a couple of times. And I hear blue cuticles are totally going to be in this year. Before we knew it, a child screeched “BINGO!” from the back of the room. We continued playing that card until there were 3 winners, then it was on to the next card.
Monkey looked up at me. “This one’s all done?” I nodded and helped him turn to the next card. “But… but I didn’t WIN,” he told me, as if CLEARLY someone had made a HORRIBLE MISTAKE. I gave him a squeeze and set the new card in front of him and told him that maybe this time, he would! That we’re playing for fun, and not everyone will win, but you just never know and so that’s why it’s SO! MUCH! FUN!
He looked at me like I had six heads, or had just told him that it’s FUN when we get run over by trucks!
Halfway through the second game, my friend’s son yelled “BINGO!” Our entire table whooped and cheered, until he said, “Just kidding!” He and his friends cracked up. Gosh, I can’t wait until I have my own 10-year-old son.
Onward through the end of the second game–again, three winners, none of them us. Now Monkey’s lip was quivering a bit. I helpfully pointed out that LOOK! We have SO MANY MORE GAMES TO GO! And we’re having a great time! With the pizza! And the markers! And our friends! And please stop waving that thing around!
By the midway point of the evening (when more pizza arrived, and they took a break), Chickadee and her friends were decorating napkins with their markers, having a grand time. Monkey was doing a lot of “it’s not fair” and “stupid card”ing. I kept jollying him out of it, but I was tiring and my nerves were wearing thin.
Time for the “special” round! This time, the winning card would have to form an X across the grid. The prizes included movie tickets, a DeWalt drill, and… some other stuff. I dunno. I wanted the drill. Heh. Chickadee was already talking about the movies she’d have to decide between. Monkey was wiping his eyes and declaring that he just HAD to win THIS time. I smelled danger.
Sure enough, none of us won this round, either. Now we were into tears. Monkey had endured five rounds of Bingo and still he was prizeless. How could the world be so cruel? He didn’t want to play anymore, except that he DID want to play so that he could win. My explanations of how not everyone could win were falling on deaf ears. I started threatening that we could just pack up and go, and he would pull himself together for each new game and fall all to pieces again at the end.
During round eight–the next-to-last round–Monkey filled up a row on his card where he needed just ONE MORE NUMBER to win. I pointed it out to him with some nervousness. “Wow, buddy, you might win this one. But you might not, too,” I offered. I’m not sure what I was hoping to accomplish with that, other than reinforcing his opinion of me as an emissary of All That Is Wrong With Bingo. Someone called “Bingo!” across the room, and that round had its first winner.
Another number was called, and with it there was another winner. The next number…
… was Monkey’s.
I poked him in the side. “Yell ‘Bingo,’ sweetie. You won!” His mouth fell open and he just stared at me. “BINGO!” I yelled, not wanting them to continue on while he sat there, in shock. This broke him out of his reverie.
“BIIIIIIIIIIINGOOOOOOOOOOO!” Monkey leapt up onto the bench seat and started waving his arms in the air. “Bingo! Bingo! I GOT BINGO! YAYYYYY!” Our whole table clapped and hollered, and he wiggled his behind and flailed his arms and did a truly interesting interpretive dance expressing his glee. The checker verified his card and then sent him on to the prize table. Chickadee offered to accompany him, so I told them to go ahead.
“He finally won!” said my friend to me.
“Thank GOD,” I replied. “I’m not sure what would’ve happened if he didn’t.” We laughed together, and then I went to see what was taking the kids so long.
Over at the prize table, Monkey stood there in tears while Chickadee tried to soothe him. It was nearly the end of the night, and the once-heaped table now held only a few choices. “There’s nothing here I WANT!” cried Monkey. I was about THIS CLOSE to delivering a lecture on poor sportsmanship and how he didn’t deserve ANY prize with his attitude, but Chickadee saved the day.
“Mama,” she tugged on my shirt and pointed. “Look!” I followed her finger to behold a shiny new Mancala game. Perfect.
“Monkey! Look what Chickie found!’ She scooped up the game and thrust it into his arms. He looked dubious. Chickadee immediately launched into a sales pitch: She’s played it before, and it’s tons of fun, and we can all play, and it’s great, and–
“But,” his lip was quivering again, “I don’t think I want that. And there isn’t anything else.” I sighed. Then inspiration hit.
“Mancala has pretty rocks, buddy. Look at the box.” He turned the box over and looked at the picture of the glass stones within. “See? There’s LOTS of those in there!”
“Okay!” Crisis averted. When in doubt, offer the boy small identical objects, suitable for hoarding. I expect we’ll get to play Mancala maybe three times before he makes all the pieces disappear. We’ll see.
We played the last round and then, mercifully, it was time to head home.
I spent $30 and we came home with a $5 prize. I don’t suppose any of us are in any danger of developing a gambling addiction. Really, just the fact that I didn’t abandon my son on the prize table is award-worthy, in my opinion. (Not that anyone would’ve picked him. Not until they were down to just him and that last chinese jump rope, anyway.)