Green, Yellow, and the Grid
Here’s a description if you’ve somehow managed to avoid Wordle so far: Wordle is a word game in which you have six tries to guess a five-letter word. After each guess, the color of the letters change to show how close the guess was to the correct answer. A green tile means you have the right letter in the right spot, a yellow tile means the right letter in the wrong spot, and a tile that stays gray is not in the Wordle at all.
A pretty simple game, and one that somehow went viral enough for the New York Times to purchase it. This owes to the social aspect, wherein everyone who is playing that day is solving the same puzzle and can share their score with their loved ones or entire networks as square emojis:
I’ve been playing Wordle since my brother and very-soon-to-be-sister-in-law introduced it to me while we were all in town for my grandfather’s funeral in February. It was one of those otherwise busy life events that also have many gaps of sitting around. I was still in the midst of my Threes binge, so the conversation went something like this:
“Oh no, I can’t get addicted to another game. I have terrible impulse control.”
“There is only one Wordle a day. You can’t play it more than once.”
A word-based puzzle game with exactly one answer you can only play once a day? I started playing immediately.
I’ve taken many screenshots of my completed boards since then. I’m honestly not sure why, it’s not like I shared them with anyone since it would ruin their puzzle. But there they were sitting in my phone, so I had a lot of material sitting around for the animation you see at the top.
In that selection of screenshots, there is one that I treasure: the day the Wordle answer had to be changed midday because it was “too political.” Something I regretted after the fact not including in last month’s essay about fetuses.
Though I have loved Wordle for months now, recently I went even deeper for a very specific reason. Mere days before I would bring Covid and quarantine to my whole household, someone told me about the Wordles beyond Wordle. The timing was an absolute gift.
Quordle is guessing four five-letter words at once with nine tries. Sedecordle is sixteen words with twenty-one tries. My personal favorite is Duotrigordle, thirty-two words at once with thirty-seven tries. For all of these games, each guess shows up across all of the word boards, progressively narrowing down more letters. The grids look insane, and finding my way through them feels so good.
I love these grids because it’s a space I can control. Unlike my body. Unlike my kids.
I don’t want to whine (who are we kidding, I love to whine) but having Covid and caring for kids at the same time is like, hard. Wordle was something I could accomplish, something I could solve, something I could complete as opposed to the endless task of parenting.
Today my youngest turns three-years-old, and I complete another series of grids. For each of my kid’s first three birthdays I have put together a grid of twelve images, one from each month of that year. I suppose the project could have gone on indefinitely, but I stopped at 36 months for D when I looked into the future and realized I didn’t want to commit to this task for the rest of her life. So here is the full series of three grids for E, now animated because I’ve gotten better at Photoshop in the last three years too.
Three is a milestone. Three for E is a command of verbal language and bodily functions. No diapers, no nursing, no drool bibs (finally!). Three is a kid.
When D turned three I was very pregnant with E, getting ready to start all over with a baby again. Today I’m not pregnant, and not planning to get pregnant again. So three feels bittersweet.
Two days ago the Wordle was YOUTH. I stopped to play it quickly while I was working on this essay, and had to laugh at the answer. I had actually already been thinking about that particular five-letter word, about how I might be watching YOUTH slip away by playing a phone game. My kids’ youth, this particular sweetness so fleeting. My own youth, as one day I will look back on this time with my small children as just that.
During our bout with Covid I used Wordle to temporarily ignore my kids when their YOUTH was too much for me. The 24/7-ness of childcare is exhausting even without a virus whose primary symptom is fatigue and whose only real remedy is rest. When you are in it, it feels endless. But it does end, and it will.
I’ve also played Wordle with my six-year-old, getting her excited about it so we can do it together, staying nestled in bed in the morning a little bit longer. A little self-serving, maybe, but at least it’s educational?
For Mother’s Day for the last few years, my partner Justin has secretly shot and edited short “interviews” of the kids. This year D improvised a song, which she sang in an intentionally babyish voice:
Mommy is awesome at drawing
Mommy is awesome at anything
Mommy is awesome at cuddles
Mommy is awesome at Wordle
Mommy is awesome, awesome at everything
Mommy is awesome, awesome, awesome
Drawing, cuddles, and Wordle. I was a little self-conscious when this silly phone game made the shortlist of my skills (granted, anything and everything are also on the list). But I guess that just shows that even with the whining, screams, and Covid, it’s a pretty charmed life.
If we are to try to draw some color-pair wisdom from Wordle, it’s Green Yellow: Love and Power. And since green means right letter right place and yellow means right letter wrong place, we can think of this Green Yellow as not just Love AND Power, but Love OVER Power.
Our days of quarantine were an exercise in love over power everyday, a constant power struggle. So much yelling as we lacked the emotional strength to negotiate with kindness, as the kids who recovered so quickly were cooped up with exhausted, ailing parents who just wanted them to sit still.
In the midst of it all I would sometimes invoke this Green Yellow to remind myself: Love OVER Power. Remember remember remember if you possibly possibly can to pause in the midst of the struggle and just appreciate. The friction comes from trying to control the situation, trying to control someone’s behavior. Control the Wordle board for a minute instead. Calm your nervous system so you’re ready for when you can’t control anything else.
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