Hump Day: The day Uncle Brian learned good manners from his nephew

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

On Christmas Day, my seven-year-old nephew received a retro toy as one of his gifts: Connect Four. The game is kind of like tic-tac-toe, except that you need to line up four disks of the same colour across a number of standing slots in order to win. The game requires some strategic thinking and the ability to think ahead by several moves — sort of like chess, although perhaps not as advanced.

My nephew loves the game and was really happy to find it under the tree at my mother’s, a gift from his cousin. Ignoring all other shiny baubles and electronics, he asked me to set up the game for him right away. Of course, I obliged. I was even hoping he’d challenge me to a game. The poor little thing would get clobbered.

Unfortunately, in my case, challenging me even to a game for little kids is enough to unleash the competitive hounds of hell from deep within my cold black heart. I take no prisoners. I was going to wipe the floor with him and quite possibly destroy his self-esteem forever. He would likely end up a broken man. That’s how badly I would beat him.

Connect fourNow, I kind of didn’t know that he’d been playing this game every day at daycare since 1835. Don’t ask me how a seven-year-old could have been playing a game since 1835, but he must have been. All that practice made him quite a little diabolical Connect Four prodigy. “Do you want to play, Uncle Brian?” Well, of course I did. I hadn’t humiliated anyone yet that day, I thought. Might as well start with my nephew. My cold black heart needed fuel and the tears of a little boy on Christmas morning getting trounced game after game by his terrible uncle would be just what it needed.

About 15 minutes later, I was a sobbing mess. Here I was, a grown man being completely shattered at Connect Four by a short red-haired monster who did not know the meaning of the word mercy. “Connect Four!” he would say as soon as he won. “Connect Four!” I grew to hate those words.

Finally, at some point, he got distracted by something shiny across the room (he’s only seven, after all) and made a mistake, allowing me to win. “Finally! You little (insert bad word here)!” I exclaimed. There were dirty looks around the table aimed at me. Oops! I guess I got a little too competitive for my own good.

“Good job!” my nephew said as he congratulated me. “Do you want to play again?” At that moment, I felt like the Grinch when he hears all the Whos down in Whoville start singing even though he’d just stolen all their Christmas presents. Good job? I’d just called him a (insert bad word here) when he won and he told me, “Good job!” when I won. What’s wrong with this picture? Why are you being… fair?

Now, you’d think I would have shed a tear at that moment, recognized my evil ways and had a beautiful halo appear over my head accompanied by the voices of a thousand angels. A renowned artist would have been hard at work creating a beautiful Uncle of the Year Award for me — commissioned by the United Nations, of course. Oprah would be on the telephone literally begging me to host my own show on her network. Pope Francis would rename St. Peter’s Basilica to Uncle Brian’s Basilica.

You’d think that, wouldn’t you? In fact, that generous feeling lasted about five seconds. “OK, let’s play again, you little (insert bad word here).” Several other matches ensued, with me taking the upper hand in victories due to the fact that I was catching on in regards to game strategy and that he’s only seven. After each victory, he continued to say, “Good job!” (Obviously, a habit he picked up from the good people at school and daycare.)

I, on the other hand, was going through murder-suicide scenarios in my head every time I lost. No, not murdering my nephew, of course. That would be a bit harsh. But that game; that darn game… it would meet a quick and painful death in the driveway under my winter studded tires because, you know, Connect Four games just magically end up in the middle of the driveway on Christmas morning. Happens all the time. And if it accidentally got broken into a million pieces, well, those things happen too. Call me the Tony Soprano of games I’m not that good at. They must die.

You know what, though? I do greatly admire the fact that he would say “Good job!” after each move I’d make or each game I’d win. Having turned into a stark-raving mad competitive jerk-uncle, I certainly didn’t reciprocate. He would even teach me which moves I should have made in order to win.

Who was this little freak? Was he crazy? How was he going to handle the cruel world out there by encouraging others to do their best and showing people how to win? Where was his killer instinct? Where was his competitive nature? Why wasn’t he rabidly trying to win each game through temper tantrums and dirty tricks like jerk-uncle here?

Obviously, he’s the family shame. I mean, really! Telling me I did a good job when I did well. Encouraging me along the way. Patiently teaching me the best strategic moves. Oh woe is us! Why have you brought shame and pestilence upon the good Cormier name?

Well, in the end, I guess he’s not so bad. Maybe I need to tone down my competitiveness a tad. And he did show some good qualities that Christmas morning of which I should be proud. Something tells me, in the end, that he’ll be just fine. To his parents, grandparents, teachers and daycare leaders, it’s my turn to say, “Good job!”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.