Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Life Lessons - Gambling

Kids in this new century are being treated a lot better than in the mid-1990s and before. Parents go out of their way to protect them, coddle them and shelter them from so many things that today's children run the risk of being totally unprepared for the real world. Years ago, junk food was a staple, helmets were for fighter pilots not kids on bicycles, and playing out in front of the house or down the block was a daily routine. Mothers kicked the kids out of the house to "go play" instead of piling them all in the van and driving them to soccer practice.

I never was nor will I ever be a person who tells others what to do with their kids but a little useful experience is something parents ought to think about imparting to their kids instead of pushing them to be the next $20 million pitcher or the next movie star.

And that brings me back to gambling. Should kids be taught to gamble? You decide.

Here's an essay I wrote a while ago on that topic. My two cents on the subject.

Teaching Your Kids to Gamble: Good or Bad?

With the advent of and temporary demise of internet poker sites, the reports of kids gambling have cropped up all over. Kids are gambling in school, after school, on the weekends and, frankly, things like this can get out of control. Nevertheless, for parents who have a good handle on what their kids are doing, who they are doing it with and where they are going, knowing about gambling need not be a problem.

Gambling, especially card playing and betting on horses, was a part of my upbringing and, consequently, part of our kids’ upbringings. We never hid the fact from them that we enjoyed gambling and we never sugar coated the realities of putting money at risk.

Holidays in our family were a time of gifts, food (lots of food) and often, card games after the table was cleared. Stakes were low (nickels and dimes) and everyone who could count was allowed to participate. The youngest learned about winning and losing very quickly; they also learned lessons in risk vs. reward. Not much different than the lessons I learned as a child.

When I was young we spent Christmas Day at my father’s mother’s apartment, a railroad-type arrangement with the large kitchen in the rear and the bedrooms lined up along a corridor with the living room facing the street in the front of the building. The main table was crowded with adults and the kids sat at various makeshift tables around the room. It was noisy, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was festive, interspersed at times with vigorous arguments on a variety of issues.

As a family we never all played cards at these gatherings but after the dishes were cleaned and dried my Aunt Carmen, my boisterous, lusty, hearty Aunt Carmen would gather all the kids together away from everyone else for a poker game. She knew that our pockets were full of the quarters, nickels and dimes we had been given by other aunts and uncles and if we only had dollar bills she happily changed them for us.

After an hour or so she usually had separated all of us from our coins and dollars. But, if we won, we won fair and square! We learned to play poker fast. We learned about life – that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. A few dollars disappearing into Aunt Carmen’s house dress pockets was a small price to pay for lessons that have lasted a life time.

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