“Hey everybody! It’s time to play everyone’s favorite broken-family game, ‘Two Ends Against the Middle!’ Whether you’re a divorced mom, a divorced dad, or the kids being used as leverage, everyone can score points! Play in the car, on trips, and on weekends with the parent who only has partial custody! Leave the game or come back in at anytime, because it absolutely NEVER ends…!”
I’d forgotten about “the game” until I realized it was being actively played nearby at a restaurant table. At first glance, it’s just a mom with her two maybe eight-year old girls having a quick breakfast until I realized one was eating ice cream… at 9 am.
The “mom” then played an “itinerary card,” rattling off what she was willing to share about her next few days; this, of course, lulls the girls into sharing what “dad” will be doing (after all, mom did it first). The one with the ice cream could have been dad’s personal assistant with the info that spilled out. This info would be later used for “innuendo cards” against “dad” during their next face-to-face playoff (“Are you actually paying their babysitter now?”)
The girls had scored points of their own, one with the dessert and the other with bright pink Anime hair (on an eight-year old spending the day with “mom”? Figure the odds of “dad” letting her go out like that). Children learn quickly that their part is to hold the juicy stuff back for material gain and to collect “favor cards” which can then be played even on other siblings. Favor cards are usually only good for one visit, so it’s best to exchange those for material wealth such as toys, gadgets, restaurants or entertainment.
To start a game, all you need are a pair of recent divorcees (who probably could move on with their lives but can’t stop sniping at one another long enough to bother) and at least one child being raised by those parents smart enough to realize their worth as a weapon, a scout, and a prize to be won. While the game goes on forever, no one ever really wins, and many times the players simply forget that all they ever do anymore is play.
Ultimate Variation – When you’re in a competitive and smart group of siblings, you can pull in more players (spouses and distant relatives), especially if you play at Thanksgiving dinner every year. There’s just no limit to the layers of pointless complexity you can go to!