Top Trumps (for Parents)

You may recall from previous posts, that I look back on my childhood with a great deal of happiness. I have been extraordinarily blessed to have had fantastic and loving role models in my parents, and playmates in my siblings. Only eighteen months separate my brother and I, and he has, and will always be one of my very best friends.  We didn’t have a television in those halcyon days and we certainly didn’t miss it. It was however, a tremendous treat when we went to our grandparent’s house, where on a Saturday afternoon we could watch Knight Rider, the A-Team or the Dukes of Hazard.

Our parents spent a lot of time with us, and most evenings we would play games. We had a pretty impressive selection to choose from, many of which are available today. One of the classics was Mousetrap and it was great fun. As you moved around the board you added to a Heath Robinson type construction which when you turned the crank, ultimately captured yours or your opponent’s playing piece; a mouse.

It was wonderfully complicated with springs, rubber bands, bathtubs, seesaws, guttering and a diver wearing only a string-vest and a pair of boxers, and it frequently didn’t work. Best of all, the tails of the mice were absolutely fantastic to chew.

The modern equivalent is however, a pretty poor show. It is a nasty plastic affair, which appears to be completely set up before the game even begins, and seems to allow absolutely no possibility of choking on one of its myriad tiny pieces.

This is often the way with many games which have survived the ravages of time. They have become leaner and cooler, and are considerably less crap than they were when I was younger. What the games manufacturers fail to realise though, is that the crapness of them was what made them so awesome.

There is however one game which time or at least growing up, has improved beyond measure. My brother and I would happily sit in the back of the car probably without seatbelts on (oh, happy days), playing one of the greatest games ever to be invented. I’m talking about Top Trumps. If you aren’t familiar with the game, simply put, you use any one of the statistics on your card to attempt to beat your opponent(s). I shudder to think of the hours we squandered playing, but it was a valuable learning tool. After years of intensive play, my brother and I could easily tell you the engine capacity of a Lotus Elite (1973cc), or the seating capacity of a Bova Futura coach (49).

To my great delight, I have found parents (and almost certainly grandparents) play a variation of this game. The adult version of this game is even better than thechildren’s one, as your don’t need cards to play it. This game is called “My kid is better than yours!”.

I have to admit that I started playing this game a day or so after the arrival of our first. Prior to Fraboo’s arrival, Mrs L. and I had been to some prenatal classes and got to know some other soon-to-be-parents. Two days after our daughter put in an appearance, I saw one of the other new Dads I had got to know, pacing the corridor of the hospital with babe in arms. I congratulated him and admired his new baby (although mine was a considerably better looking), and asked when his little one had been born. He informed me that his son had been born the previous evening. It had been a little more complicated than he had been expecting and ultimately the little lad had arrived via a Ventouse delivery.

To be quite honest though, I had stopped listening after he’d said last night! My daughter, through no fault of her own, had beaten him into the world by at least 24 hours! My jubilation was short lived though as we next compared their birth weights. To say that Fraboo had let me down, was a tremendous understatement. I didn’t ask about birth length, and even if I had, his child would have been cheating, as he had the characteristic Ventouse cone-head, which added valuable centimetres to the measurement.

As time goes by, and our children get older, I’ve gleefully noticed, that the there are plenty more opportunities to rub other parent’s nose in it, and have had the metaphorical sand kicked in my face too. Here are but a few classic examples.

“The midwife is really pleased with how much weight she’s put on.”

“He’s already sleeping though the night”

“She’s already onto solids.”

“Oh yes, she’s been crawling for weeks.”

“He’s already reading”

And so it goes on.

Even the peculiarities and quirks children have are celebrated by their parents and grandparents.

Not long after Boy-Boy was diagnosed with his hearing impairment, we went to a local park. Up until that point, he had been in a world of his own (he couldn’t hear us, so no amount of shouting was of any use), and as was his way, he just wandered off. Forever eagle-eyed, I took off after him and retrieved him. This was not at all unusual, and he happily toddled off in any direction he chose.

After I went to retrieve him for the fifth time, an elderly lady wandered up to me with the express intention of telling me how badly behaved my son was, and to offer me some much needed (so she thought) parenting advice. As I have been brought up to respect people older than me, I politely listened, while Boy-Boy scarpered again.

She droned on for about 10 minutes about how parents these days don’t know how to raise their children etc, as my blood pressure gently rose. As she reached the end of her monologue, I coldly informed her that Boy-Boy does have a hearing difficulty.

She bluntly told me that this was no excuse for my inadequacies. She then proceeded to recount the tale of her Grandson who had a terrible combination of infirmities, which individually were far worse than a petty hearing impairment (“It’s not even as if he’s completely deaf is it?”) but combined to make a truly heartbreaking story.

In retrospect though, maybe she wasn’t playing Top Trumps. I got the feeling that she was playing a more sophisticated game; Poker perhaps, and she’d got a Royal Flush!

Finally, I’ll end this piece by making two observations.

First; don’t ever play this game with your own Mum or Dad. You will either end up feeling hopelessly inadequate or wonder what kind of pathetic excuses for humanity you’ve spawned.

Secondly; it really isn’t worth your while playing in the first place. You see, my kids really are better than yours!