Michelle Martin


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Love means never having to say you’re sorry, at least according to the 1970 movie “Love Story.”

Tell that to Hasbro, and it’s Sorry! board game.

For anyone unfamiliar — is anyone unfamiliar? — it’s similar to Parcheesi and Trouble, with each player moving multiple pawns around the board, trying to get all their pieces into their home area first. As in those other games, though, it’s not simply a race; players can send their opponents back to the start, so the lead can change unpredictably.

We’ve been playing a lot of Sorry! lately, as it has become one of Teresa’s favorite games. This is a good thing; a few years ago, playing games like Sorry! and Parcheesi meant tears every time she got sent back to the start. Maybe we let her win at Candy Land too much, but the idea that it was a game, and that she might lose, and that her parents might do something that would make it more likely that she would lose, seemed to come as a shock.

Not anymore.

Not that she’s happy to get sent back, but she accepts that it’s part of the game, and if she ends up losing, she shrugs it off. You don’t always draw the card you need at the right time, and that’s a lesson best learned young. At the same time, she strategizes to put herself in a position to send other players back, and giggles in glee when she succeeds, offering the game’s trademark “Sorry!” in a tone that’s not sorry at all.

Of course, that’s not real life. In real life, we are in Lent, a season of atonement, a time when we are supposed to reflect on our sins and our shortcomings, take stock of the ways we have hurt one another and damaged our relationship with God, and seek forgiveness and absolution. It’s the exact opposite of ruthlessly thwarting a loved one’s plans and tossing off a sarcastic non-apology.

Real apologies, of course, include not just an expression of regret, but an attempt to make things right and the intention to not repeat the offense.

No wonder the game is confusing for young children, whom we want to be secure in the love of their parents and to whom we promise our support. Except, you know, if we’re playing a game.

That’s the point, though. A game is a game, not real life. Playing a game with your children — playing with your children — is good, for the kids and for the parents. If it gives the kids a low-stakes way to learn that luck is not always good, that losing is not the end of the world even if winning is more fun and that a little planning, in some circumstances, can make winning more likely, that’s all to the good.

As long as everyone remembers to help clean up when the game is over, and that real-life sorrys have real meaning, it looks like family game night is going to stay on the calendar.


  • lent
  • family life