Family Game Night. Even the idea of it brings both a satisfied smile and an exhausted sigh.
I was the “game kid” in my family growing up. Aggravation, Sorry, Cribbage, Skip-Bo – I’d drag them out and beg for someone to play with me. We’d declare it Family Game Night once in a while, having snacks or treats, and gathering around the table. I loved those nights – and it was something I wanted to do with my family (when I had one) on a regular basis.
But those dreams we have about parenting often look a little altered – even skewed – through the lens of reality, don’t they? It’s not all bad. Game Night just isn’t quite the picture perfect, quiet, serene, everyone-laughing-and enjoying-themselves film I’d had in my childhood visions of the future.
Often, there are moments of gut-busting laughter, unscripted delight, and familial enjoyment. I remember when our five-year-old was literally 4,000 points behind in Farkle and headed towards a sure loss. His oldest brother – chest puffed out – was counting his proverbial chickens before they hatched. On his last turn – do or die – his little brother rolled everything he needed to dethrone his eldest brother and become the victorious king of Farkle-land! We shouted so loud we actually frightened him! After reassurance that he wasn’t in trouble and that he, in fact, had won, he flexed his kindergarten muscles as we sports-chanted his name and clapped thunderously on beat.
These are the moments you play for. This is what Game Night is all about – so that later we can debate once more the answer to the Imaginiff question, “If mom was a mode of transportation, which would she be?”
But there’s another side to Game Night. It’s the side that requires you to take stock in how much patience you actually have left at the end of the night. Because if you are expecting little adults-in-the-making to act, well…adult-ish, you may just want to set fire to the game closet and never speak of Family Game Night again.
I am SO not kidding. And here are three reasons why….
First, it’s noise torture: The sheer magnitude of sound waves generated at that velocity and index, and in such close proximity (as in around a kitchen table) will make you think your eardrums are about to shatter. It’s because of Game Night that I understand why noise torture is effective in spy movies as a technique to make agents crack. The volume of this environment will make you lose your ever-loving mind and push you to the brink of a breakdown. The shout-talking, beat-boxing, humming, singing, and stringing together of inaudible, non-existent words – ahhhhh! My ears are shuddering at the thought.
Second, the excessive, spastic movement. I never knew how many times a child could fall off a chair in a single hour until Game Night. Mealtimes are mostly okay but when Game Night starts, someone’s greased the seats. And everyone becomes aspiring percussionists – drumming the table, stomping the feet, kicking the chairs, buzzing of the lips – all to a chaotic, non-succinct melody of which I am fully unaware. This bone-jarring, ground-shaking display is particularly angering when paired with Dominos or the word-pondering portion of Scattergories. I think it’s all a ploy to overstimulate the parents and give kids the advantage. (Don’t tell them, but it’s totally working.)
Thirdly, there is a cataclysmic lack of understanding that “your turn” will come around again and again, usually in the same order of events. It’s a circle. We take turns and move in a circle. How is this difficult to grasp? Why is it surprising that it is – once again – “your turn”? (Unless, of course, you are playing the “reverse card” in Uno which may be an idea from the devil to destroy all traces of parental sanity – just saying…)
Yes, Family Game Night can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. Around our house, the word “bikini” will never NOT bring cackles and chuckles after my tween shouted it out as an answer to a Family Feud game question. I can’t even remember if it was correct or not, but the shimmy-shake of the shoulders and high falsetto voice as he did it has imprinted a memory-stamp in my mind and on that article of swimwear forever.
Family Game Night makes us equals – all able to win or to lose, all at the same table, each learning at their own pace how to win without bragging and lose with selfless grace. It allows us as parents to model behaviors like displaying a congratulatory attitude when we come in last. Someday all too soon our tables will be quiet, there won’t be enough players to interact, and we’ll wish that someone was dropping a beat on that tin of Spot-It cards.
So, embrace the chaos, grab some quality earplugs, and pull out some yummy snacks and treats. Choose to make memories that will be brimming with just as much love as there will be noise. (And there will be noise.)
Happy Game Night to you and yours!
BONUS: 7 More of our favorite family games:
- Snorta – You get to make animal noises and kids can play on their own!
- Yatzee – Short on time? Play as a team and fill out one list! Takes less time and builds cooperation!
- Moods – Teaches vocabulary and acting skills as well! Check Ebay, too!
- Golf – There are many variations. We use two full decks of cards and then make the Jokers worth -5 and the Queens of Spade worth +25, just to make it interesting!
- Sequence – For little hands, consider drawing one card at a time and playing instead of having a hand of 6 or 7 cards.
- Forbidden Island – A great cooperative game that can help the littles feel a part of the team!
- Crazy 8’s – You can play it with regular cards but these are more fun!