Candy Land and the Art of Cheating

Place: living room

Time: boys’ nap

Game: Candy Land

Game No.: three, I think (we play it over and over and over and over …)

Situation: I took a break to go to the bathroom. When I came back, it was Sophie’s turn.

Sophie: “Hmmm, what’s this card under here? I think I’ll pick it. Oh! It’s double yellow! Just what I needed!” (Her honest-to-God exact words.)

Sophie’s Candy Land game piece: hopping along the board, taking the shortcut Sophie so coveted

Me: “Sophie. Did you hide that card under the game instructions while I was in the bathroom so you could take the shortcut?”

Sophie: “No. I mean yes.”

Talk: about cheating and lying and truth-telling

Game No.: four, after I told her game No. 3 had to be abandoned because of cheating

Cheating Since Then: zero, unless she’s simply gotten better at it

“A lie has speed, but truth has endurance.” —Edgar J. Mohn



This morning Sophie told us that she and a friend are “sneaky” at preschool. “What do you mean, sneaky?” I asked. She said that some of the work they choose from the classroom bookshelves is meant to be done alone but she doesn’t like doing work alone—she likes doing it with her friend. So they find a place “that’s blocked so the teacher can’t see us.”

“Where did you learn the word ‘sneaky’?” I asked.

“From my teacher,” Sophie said.

I have a feeling my next parent-teacher conference is going to differ from the last one.

Sophie can be sneaky, though. I know this. Several weeks ago I left all three kids playing in the living room for just a few minutes. When I came back in the room, Sophie and Owen were snuggled on the couch together, under the blanket Linda knitted for us, watching Clifford on TV. The TV was off when I left the room. So somehow they managed to find the remote (which is always missing), turn the TV on and then find a child-appropriate show to watch. (It took me a good month to learn how to use that remote.)

But I loved how they were snuggled into one another. And I loved the look on Owen’s face—it’s a smirk he makes often, when he’s proud of himself. So I let them be, despite the fact they were over their TV limit for the day. Sometimes, I think, sneaky can be harmless. And can bring joy. And camaraderie.

I’m sure being sneaky will take on an entirely different meaning, however, when my children are 16.

“I was so naive as a kid I used to sneak behind the barn and do nothing.” —Johnny Carson