Saturday, October 26, 2013

Know When To Hold Babies, Know When To Fold Laundry

Did you know that Husband and I met while playing poker?  Did you know that from 1999-2007, I played poker an average of once a week?  Do you know anyone else with this shirt?
Becoming a mom has drastically reduced my poker playing time.  Big surprise, right?  Despite the fact that I would usually rather sleep than have pocket Aces, I'm still a player.  I just happen to use my poker skills on my children, these days, rather than on those across the felt.

Poker Face- (Don't sing the song in your head.  You know you'll regret it.)  It takes talent and skill to keep your face, tone of voice, and body language neutral when in an intense or exciting situation.  Similarly, not letting a smile escape when Baby is in timeout, grinning and giggling and nodding repentantly as she is sternly told, "Hitting hurts!" for the 23rd time in an hour, is a learned and honed skill.

Patience- The better the poker play, the longer the game.  There's no "quick pick" option in tournament poker, like when playing the lottery.  Not to blow my own horn or whatever, but I've kinda got the patience of a saint.  I can deal for a long time with 6 y.o.'s deliberate attempts to be annoying.  Hours.  Days!  I stand in front of the pantry cupboard for a total of ~2 hours, 8 minutes each week while Baby decides what she wants for a snack.
"You'd like a cracker?"
"No no no."
"No no no."
"Sesame sticks?"
"Ok. Let's put some in a bowl."
"No no no no no!  Crackah!"
"Cashews?  Craisins?  Graham cracker?"
"Wahhhh hah hah hah!  Crack ahhhhh!"
"Ok.  Here's your cracker."
It takes gobs of patience to listen to 6 y.o. read, even now that he's gotten quick at it.  Usually, he peppers every other sentence with a bout of whining, unless he's in an agreeable mood and things are moving along well, at which time Baby makes it her mission to test her lung capacity for screaming and her climbing-on-people's-heads ability.  Both of them were colicky as infants, and my patience kept me calm during hours of non-stop, inconsolable crying for those months which seemed like decades.  I've waited out countless tantrums, kept my cool even when repeating the same instructions over and over again, and I've even managed not to lose patience with drivers ahead of me on the road going 10 mph under the speed limit while a freshly-potty-trained little boy is in the back seat telling me he needs to go.  See, I realized long ago that my ability to wait for the right time to make a big move (or not) during a card game could serve me well in so many other aspects of life.  

Reading Tells- If you watch the pros play poker (don't click on this link if you don't want the November 9 revealed) in the World Series of Poker, you'll quickly see that their ability to read their opponents' tells is almost magical. I'm not that good a poker player, but I do know how to read my opponents, and my kids.  I can tell what they are thinking and can predict their next moves like I'm inside their heads.  
I like to hold 'em.
I know the look 6 y.o. gets in his eye when he's about to start talking nonsense or make gross noises come from various parts of his body.  I know just by looking at Baby when it is too much for me to ask her to put down her filthy, germy, most loved stuffed friend, Bun Bun.  I can tell when one of them is about to test the limits and run into the road, and I am rarely surprised by their behavior out in public.  I know what to expect, because I know their tells.

Calling a Bluff- Perhaps most important of all the poker skills is to know when your opponent is bluffing and you can safely push all in or make a big bet and get them out of the hand.  As a mom, it can be hard to tell the difference between, "My tummy hurts" and "My tummy hurts" and to figure out when your child is bluffing to get out of eating and when you need to scoop him up and run into the bathroom.  So far, I've been able to make the right call whenever my son has tried to bluff* me.

On Tilt- Going "on tilt" during a poker game is a pretty quick way to lose a lot of chips.  Basically, it happens when you lose a big hand or make one bad decision and immediately try to make up for the lost money by playing more aggressively or without thinking as clearly; playing emotionally rather than with your head.  Your all-in opponent sucks out and beats you on the river, for example, by getting the one out that they needed.  Or you simply call a bet when you should've raised and allow yourself to end up losing a hand that you could have won.  I've learned that parenting is not its most successful when played done on tilt.  Despite all the patience, all the good reads, all the knowledge about child-rearing and decision making, sometimes there are bad days.  If you let that frustration get to you, or you start to question yourself as a parent because of one mistake, or you focus on the negative instead of on the big picture positive, you'll soon find it difficult to make good decisions or to keep your smile.

They say that Texas Hold 'Em is a game that takes just minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master.  I believe that almost the same thing can be said of parenting- almost anyone can become a parent, but then it takes the rest of your life to master the "game."

"When in Vegas, I play __________"

Lady Gaga or Kenny Rogers?  Whose song is in your head after reading this?

*Husband and I don't take lying lightly, and we don't call it 'bluffing' around the house.  I promise.


  1. If only I had this to read 20 years ago, I could have learned to play poker and perhaps improved my interactions with the wee twins.

  2. Nice analogy!
    I wonder if the skills I've honed as a mom would help me be a good poker player.

    Kenny Rogers. I think that answer dates me.

  3. You'e too clever! Unfortunately I think of Miss Gaga...