Posted by: Kate | January 18, 2009

B 4

Oh, to be four. Poor little Jacob, life is just so tough when you’re four.

Imagine being bundled up on a Friday night and taken to a “Family Night” at your big sister’s school. You don’t quite know what that means, though your mom has said that there would be pizza and Bingo involved, and you’re up for anything anyway. Let’s face it, you’re happy just to be invited along to the party, you don’t need any big exciting activities to entice you along.

You get there, and there is, indeed, pizza, and about a million other families and kids and bright lights and noise. It’s confusing, and you didn’t take a nap today, and you’re feeling overstimulated and edging toward overwhelmed.

To pass some time until the Bingo starts, your parents decide to walk up to the front of the room to check out the assortment of prizes being offered for Bingo winners. The grown-ups are quietly using words like “lame” and “cheap,” but in your eyes, they are a bright, shiny treasure trove of sheer unadulterated awesomeness. Especially that Power Rangers toy. Oh, you want that Power Rangers toy.

You sit back down, and the Bingo starts. None of your family is doing especially well – nobody is within one or two spots away from winning – when someone across the room shouts, “Bingo!”

Initially, you’re pleasantly clueless, ready to applaud the winner and then to keep right on playing. That cluelessness quickly morphs into flabbergasted when your mom gathers up the Bingo cards and sets out new ones, and flabbergasted becomes outraged when the reality dawns: this game is done, and another one is about to start.

Perhaps you’ll use a different phrase to describe it, from a four-year-old’s vocabulary, but from the outside, the only appropriate words, are, you lost your shit. “But I want to win Bingo!” you wailed. “I’m going to win that Power Ranger toy! It’s my turn!”

Your parents look vaguely horrified, and share a look that someday you will recognize as painful, sudden-onset parent guilt. They had forgotten to explain the course of events to you, because they knew you had played Bingo at school and so were familiar with the basic “fill in the lines” concept. But at school, they play until everyone wins. You had never encountered a situation wherein there is just one winner and everyone else is just out of luck.

Of course, there hasn’t been much opportunity for you to experience the more competitive, cutthroat world of Bingo, because in New Hampshire, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to enter an official, for-money Bingo game. Yes, really, 21. You can ride a motorcycle to the Bingo hall without a helmet, setting off industrial-strength fireworks as you go, and then when you get to the parking lot you can actually remove all of the seat belts from the cars because seat belts are optional, too – but you can’t legally enter the building, even to use the bathroom.

Live free or die, baby.

So, you coped, because that’s what you do. You soldiered gamely on, and were placated with a later-than-usual bedtime and a viewing of last week’s American Idol, which you don’t even really want to watch but your big sister does and your Me-Too gene is a powerful, powerful thing.

Poor little bug. Your parents will try harder to prepare you for the next shock in this cold, cruel world.



  1. Now see at our school even with the “big” kids we tend to play on even after someone wins usually until 3 or 4 win then clear the card. Poor J.

  2. We play the same as Patty – 3-4 people win before we switch cards. Then they do 2 lines, 4 square, X, L, fill the card. In the end, everyone usually wins at least once.

  3. I love the title of this entry! 🙂


  5. Poor little guy. Bring him on down – he can daub the cards, but you’ll have to yell Bingo for him. –That is, if you can stand an evening steeped in cigarette smoke. He can sit in the bar too – but you have to serve his liquor to him. No motorcycle helmets here, either (more business for me!!). He can buy fireworks at any age, get cigarettes and a concealed handgun license at 18, but he can’t walk into an “adult novelty and bookstore” until he’s 21.

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