The Wisdom Of Snakes And Ladders

We’re always thinking of the things we need to teach our children. The wisdom we want impart, the mistakes that we want to help them avoid!

Yet the fact is they often have something to teach us. I was playing snakes and ladders with my son. He has only just started to play the game and really enjoys it. He particularly enjoys it when he lands on a square which means he has to go down a snake. It’s as if he’s going down a slide at the park; he laughs and goes wheeeee!

I laughed too and was about to explain that going down the snakes was something that you don’t want to have to do… you really want to get excited when you go up the ladders!

But then I thought again. He understands the rules of the game. He knows what to do when he lands on a ladder. He knows what to do when he lands on a snake and he knows when the game is finished. Why do I need to give him the feeling that going down the snake is a bad thing?  Because, actually, it isn’t!

It’s just going down a snake because that is what the throw of the dice has decided! And it just so happens my son loves going down the snakes!

I don’t think it too far fetched to think that there is a useful life lesson there for me! Good and bad things happen to us in life… some are undeniably good and some terribly and intrinsically bad. We can all get bogged down by the everyday stuff that happens to us and it can really make us miserable. We can use all this as reason to go through our lives in a fog of misery.

However, much of what we think is misfortune is not actually terrible. It’s just stuff that’s happened to us, it doesn’t really mean much at all. And a lot of that ‘stuff’ can have some enjoyable or good side effects. Either immediately or at some later date in the future. In fact in that particular game with my son, despite  him having to go down many snakes (and he did so with great gusto!) he went on to win! The poet and philosopher Kahil Gibran, in talking about parents and their children said “You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you” This is an instance when I do want to be more like my child!

Playing Snakes and Ladders with my son has taught me that sometimes we go up a ladder and sometimes we go down a snake…. and whatever I happen to think about either event is entirely up to me!