When I was a kid, my family would gather around our kitchen table after dinner playing PoKeNo, Michigan Rummy, Yahtzee or any number of other board or card games. I remember how much fun it was to be trash-talking with my sisters and brother about how we were going to crush each other or giggling together about all of us ganging up to beat our dad. Those family game nights are among my fondest memories of my childhood. I was looking forward to continuing the tradition with our kids. They had other plans.
When the boys reached about 6 or 7 years-old, I thought it was a good time to start family game night. They had received several board games at Christmas. A cold, winter evening seemed a perfect time to start a new family tradition.
“Hey, guys,” I said excitedly, “guess what we are going to do tonight?”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized the two mistakes I had already made. First, unless I am on fire, I should never speak excitedly to Nic and Aaron. To them, anything that makes mom excited either means work or that it must be boring. Second, I should never have asked them to guess what we were going to do. By the time they got done going through their list, which included going to the circus, getting a puppy, and having a party with lots of cake, playing a board game seemed uneventful.
“No, ” I said when they finally stopped making guesses. “We are going to have our first family game night! Doesn’t that sound like fun? You both got so many cool games at Christmas, Dad and I thought it would be fun to start playing them. Together. As a family.”
Nic and Aaron looked at me blankly. Ron, my husband, was trying hard not give me the “I told you so” stare.
“You want us to play games with you?” asked Aaron.
“Well, yea. We will all play.”
“Do we get to eat popcorn or have soda while we play?” asked Nic.
“Nooooo,” their dad piped in. “We are not going to get the games all sticky and dirty.”
“I don’t think we want to do play,” Aaron said, speaking matter-of-factly for himself and his brother. “Thanks anyway, mom.”
“I wasn’t asking, Aaron. We are going to have a family game night. So, you and Nic go each pick a game and let’s get started.”
“If you insist,” Aaron came back. “But I’m warning you, it’s gonna be boring.”
“Yea, boring!” said Nic.
“It will only be boring if you pick the wrong games,” Ron added. “Come on, guys, this will be fun.” Everything in Ron’s face made it clear to me that this was already torture, but I appreciated his trying to rally the troops.
The boys picked the games Zingo and Trouble. Good, we were getting somewhere. We agreed to let Aaron be the first caller in Zingo. Everyone was participating and we were having fun, this is just what I had envisioned. It wasn’t long, though, until Nic lost his focus and was missing the game pieces on his Zingo board when they were called. Instead, he was giggling hysterically over the word combinations of the Zingo pieces. Aaron added to the giggles by calling the pieces quicker and quicker: DeerFoot, CatFish, DogApple. “Is that like a RoadApple? Is that a DogPoop?”
Soon, the boys were laughing so hard that neither of them could even play the game. Pieces were falling on the floor. Game boards were being bumped. My husband was getting annoyed. I wanted the kids to have fun, but I wanted them to have fun playing the game.
We decided to wrap-up the Zingo game and give Trouble a try. After several tries at the popper and still not getting any pieces on the board, Nic started to complain. “This game is so stupid,” he grumbled. “I’m never going to win.”
“Well, there’s more to playing a game than winning,” I said.
“Yea, there’s losing,” added Aaron. “Like you’re losing.”
“You’re stupid,” responded Nic.
“Okay, that’s enough,” I said. “Let’s get back to the game.”
“Do we haaaaaaaaaaave tooooooooo?” they boys whined in unison.
“Listen to your mother,” said my husband, popping the die and getting another piece on the board.
“He just wants to play because he is winning,” muttered Aaron.
“You got that right,” added Nic.
Now, Ron and I were determined that we were going to finish the game. As the boys grew increasing distracted, we grew increasingly annoyed. Nic laid himself across the table. The effort of playing the game apparently was exhausting. Aaron huffed and sighed and kept whispering, “I knew this was going to be boring.”
Finally, Ron placed his last piece safely at home. He smiled triumphantly. At least someone was having fun.
“Thank God, that’s over!’ exclaimed Aaron.
“I thought I was going to die, it was so boring.” Nic said dramatically falling off his chair.
“Didn’t you have fun with family game night?” I asked.
“You mean family “LAME” night?” said Aaron,
“Yea,” giggled Nic, “Family lame night! Get it! Family lame night!”
Now, they were both laughing their heads off repeating “family lame night” over and over again.
“See,” I said to my husband. “I knew they would have fun.”