What I Learned About My Kids From a Game of UNO

We recently found ourselves teaching the game of UNO to our kids. I randomly pulled the game out after dinner and thought it would be an innocent time of kids throwing incorrect cards towards a pile on the table. What I found instead was that UNO works like a little kid personality test. I didn’t go looking for this moment of revelation about my children, but I walked away from that table with an unexpected understanding of their personalities. 

The first round was them learning what this game was all about. They’re taking it in and at this point it seems like the hardest part is having them hold their cards up in their tiny hands. Looking around I notice that my oldest is feeling more confident and she starts playing as many “draw 2” cards as she can. Oh, she’s competitive. The round goes on and the second oldest, Sophie, just laughs any time she has to draw cards. She laughs at being skipped. She laughs at not being able to hold all of her cards. Each person’s stack of cards grows and shrinks and we start getting to the part where we explain the whole yelling “UNO” thing when you’re down to your last card. The oldest, Zara, took this as a challenge. She realized that she could stop someone from winning and would carefully watch everyone’s dwindling cards. 

My husband won the first round, because apparently we’re the kind of parents that don’t let their kids win at board games. Insert some lesson about real life and nothing getting handed to you <here>. Everyone settled in and was ready for battle on the next round. Except for Sophie, because she could care less. She has ZERO competition in her. She’s our peacemaker and harmony child. Not something I expected knowing how she plays with her younger brother, but it was also not so surprising. 

The game goes on and Zara starts accumulating wild cards and has even begun strategizing. Her competitive side is only getting better at being competitive. Part of me is saying “yeah, that’s my girl,” and the other part of me is slightly terrified. She had zero awareness for how others were feeling and was completely focused on winning this game. She was pretty intense. 

Our third child, Ben, is very sensitive. He feels everything in a big way, which made me think he would shy away from competitive things. He struggled to hold his cards in a way where he could see them and he would get frustrated with it, but he stuck with it. He would look up with big sad eyes every time he would have to draw 2 cards or skip a turn. I kept expecting him to just set his cards down and walk away. Typically his emotions get the best of him and we have to help him talk through it. We get to the end of the game and Sophie, the one who didn’t care about winning at all ends up winning the game. Ben bursts into tears. He was holding in these big emotions because while he’s super sensitive it turns out that competition will drive him. 

There have been very few times (if any) where they have had the opportunity to be competitive in that way. It turns out competition can really bring out a different side of your kid. While it was 100% them, it was their personality heightened in a way that allowed me to see how they would respond in certain scenarios. For Ben, I now know that he may need a lot of emotional support along the way as we get to the age where he’s in competitive sports. He cares a lot about things and offering him a different perspective may help him process better. Zara will be a force to be reckoned with in whatever she decides she is competing in, so being outward focused is going to be her challenge. Sophie would rather be picking daisies, and I don’t blame her, but there may be times where she may need help finding motivation. 

All of this from a game of UNO on an ordinary Tuesday night. What things have you learned about your kids in unexpected ways? 

I was born in Mexico, which means I’m obsessed with the culture and carry it with me, and raised in San Antonio, which means I love longhorns, ranches, and the Spurs. I used to think that I was made up of contradictions—I mean, who majors in art and then switches to accounting? Or who loves to get lost in intricate painting details for hours, and yet has four kids in four-and-a-half years? So, it’s a fun, wild, chaotic journey my husband, four kids, and one dog are on, but we’re learning to soak it in, especially when the “it” is mud in our backyard.