Home, not alone: How we became Risk-adverse

Getting the board game of Risk seemed like such a good idea, writes Ruairi O’Duil. Then things fell apart.

We’re not allowed to play Risk in our house anymore.

I thought it would be great. The Teenager has been playing the board game Risk online with some of his mates and his raving about it reminded me that I used to spend hours seeking global domination by rolling dice, moving armies and making and breaking alliances with my friends at probably the same age. So, blinded by hopeless reminiscence and innocent optimism, I jumped online and ordered the Risk 60th Anniversary Special Edition amid proclamations that this was going to make Isolation wonderful and we would all be bonded forever.  

Scarred forever, more like. 

The initial enthusiasm, dimmed by the interminably long wait on the postal system, flickered back into life with the eventual arrival of an actual delivery of something. If this is how long it takes to get stuff, we don’t have to worry about shops reopening because online shopping will never take off. 

It might have been better if it never arrived.  

Risk is not a good game for Isolation if you have four competitive individuals, with a wide range of ages, aptitudes, power and motivations and a very narrow range of distances and distractions to escape each other.  

Particularly when ‘But it’s only a game’ means different things depending on whether you were on the winning side of a secret alliance or not. 

It is striking how contagious moods and emotions are when you’re all confined together. It’s like wildfire, or, I suppose, CV itself. Somebody wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and, whoof, we’re all blazing, everybody piling their frustration-soaked propellants on the bonfire, flash fires raging all day. Or conversely, someone gets their smile on and we’re all unicorns and rainbows, niceness and random acts of kindness.  

The volatility is such a drain. Particularly because I’m one of those harmony seekers. I think that we all should just get along. Yeah, I know, the planet I live on has two moons and the sky is lilac.  

And the need to be patient? All the time? That is such a stress. Teachers are blessed souls. I think that patience is actually their superpower. Remote learning. Shoot me now. It started off so well but now, not so much. But then there’s the guilt from that. ‘But this is so important, it’s our children’s education, blah bablah bah blah.’ 

We just need to admit that it is such a bloody drain. And do you know, just admitting it releases the pressure of it. It is a drain. Admit it, out loud. ‘The need to be patient is a burden.’ Release it and move on. 

And this time of rules and restrictions is throwing up so many other ‘shoulds”’; should stay home, should socially distance, should not touch, should use my time constructively, should drink less, should exercise more, should eat less, should connect with the kids more, should make sure they’re doing the school thing, should be doing school ‘right’.  

And my inner rebel is arcing up like William Wallace: ‘No one tells me what to do! You cannae take ma Freedom!’ 

I’m rebelling against even the things I want to do. And feeling guilty because it’s all so hard and it should be easy. Ha! See? They’re everywhere.

So, I’m working on my perspective. The Dancer and I go to school and we try to get all the set stuff done, not because we should, but because we want to, and we try to figure out what to do instead of the stuff we don’t want to do.  

And we don’t want tears and we don’t want ultimatums. We want fewer shoulds and more choosings.  

And we choose to not play Risk. 

Ruairi O’Duil has parked his reflexology business during the pandemic, and is contributing regularly to The Parents’ Website, offering his insights into family well-being.