If you  have an extra $6 or so left over in the Christmas budget, I have an idea for one more gift. It will be enjoyed by the entire family. Not only will it provide countless hours of entertainment, but your entire household may also reach a state of peacefulness previously unknown, at least until someone plays the final card in their stock pile and all returns to normal.

 

If you  have an extra $6 or so left over in the Christmas budget, I have an idea for one more gift.


It will be enjoyed by the entire family. Not only will it provide countless hours of entertainment, but your entire household may also reach a state of peacefulness previously unknown, at least until someone plays the final card in their stock pile and all returns to normal.


Skip-Bo is a card game that uses a special deck made up of 13 different cards — numbered one to 12 plus a wild card, the eponymous Skip-Bo card. The rules are fairly simple, and even younger kids can quickly grasp its strategies.


Unlike other card games of its ilk — such as War, which promotes jingoistic tendencies, or Old Maid with its misogynistic undertones — Skip-Bo is transcendent of such prejudices and instills tolerance in those who are naturally disposed to be at odds. I speak here of siblings who are in that feud-fueled age range of 4 to 14, a group that makes the warring factions who precipitated the brutal downfall of the Roman Empire look quite neighborly.


My kids, lovely children all, can at times be intolerant of each other’s right to exist. Harmony is often hard to come by, especially in the winter months with limited opportunities for escape. And then there is the bickering — the grating and incessant bickering, punctuated by door slamming and name calling. But, as I say, they are quite lovely.


All of that changes, however, when the Skip-Bo deck comes out.


Everyone gathers around the coffee table and a strange calmness descends upon the room. Petty jealousies are set aside. Grudges fade from memory. As each card is played we embark on a path toward peace and enlightenment.


Surprisingly, the game wasn’t invented by an ancient Chinese philosopher, but rather, a Ms. Hazel Bowman of Brownfield, Texas. It migrated to our home after passing through the Green Mountains of Vermont, where as a child my wife learned the game at the heels of her Mémère, a legendary player among the French-Canadians who populate that part of the country.


Our kids also picked up the game at a young age, but they were actually introduced to it in utero.


During each of my wife’s three pregnancies, late in the final trimester, there were several late nights spent counting contractions and passing the time by playing Skip-Bo. Our hope was that we would have to bolt for the hospital before the last card was played. Unfortunately the game’s calming effects only served to stave off labor and she would eventually have to be induced each time.


Yet they eventually did arrive, genetically conditioned to excel at Skip-Bo and predisposed to arguing with each other at the slightest provocation. When we finally discovered that the former could counteract the latter, however briefly, the moment was Zen-like. Here was a way to enjoy an evening together that didn’t require a veil of threats or the use of tranquilizers.


There are other family-oriented games that promote tranquility, but most of those rely on maintaining physical distance for long periods of time, such as interstate scavenger hunts or Hide-and-Seek, the Amazon Rainforest edition. Skip-Bo can produce both tranquility and familial harmony, while not subjecting parents to potential child abandonment charges.


So Christmas night — when the buzz from the smart eggnog has worn off, but the kids are still in Yule tide overdrive — break out that deck of Skip-Bo and deal everyone a hand. Soon you will all be engaged in a peaceful card game and smiling sedately like Hare Krishnas.


And if that doesn’t work, you may want to follow the Way of Costanza and try repeating this mantra: “Serenity now!”


Dan Naumovich is a freelance writer and business copywriter. He can be reached at dan@naumo.com.