Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Family Game Night: Did I Forget to Notice We Were Having Fun?

Family game night. Sounds like a good idea, right? The people on the box look like they're having fun, so shouldn't we too?

Tonight we hauled out the game of Life and gathered around for some family bonding time. We placed 5 cars on the board, I organized myself for banker duty and off we went, to college, marriage, kids and debt. It started well. Julia, our 2 year old, teamed with dad while Joey (7), Lindsey (6), Sam (4) and I played on our own.

Before we had all graduated, the trouble began. Subtly, at first, it started with a little migration of the game board, protests over whose feet belong where and how much said feet may or may not stink. Yet, we carried on.

Barely married, we moved on to the next conflict: coersion by the older children that might lead the younger ones to make moves less than optimal for their overall health in the game. Dad labled this cheating (and in doing so protected his own salary card, I might add!), which caused one child to run from the room crying and slam his bedroom door in protest. Ignoring the missing player, we carried on.

On to house buying! Certain players did not have enough money to buy their chosen residences (sounds like real life) so they turned accusatory eyes toward the banker. It must have been my fault because surely I missed a payday or two. My discussion of self-advocation fell on deaf ears so we carried on.

Babies began to fill up our cars. The competition heated up, because when our family plays Life, it's not how much money one has that matters: the person with the most kids is the real winner. The pouting player returned wordlessly and took his turn, so we carried on.

By this time, players were arguing, dad was sleeping between turns, everyone was talking at once, and the banker was ready to throw in the towel. We must be nearly done, I thought. But we weren't even half way through. Could we carry on?

Julia grew bored and began wandering around and sitting on people's money piles over their strong protests. Children yelled "GO!" with outrage at each other without allowing a full 2 seconds for a turn to be taken. Talking was a thing of the past as yelling and irritation took over. No, we could not carry on.

I suggested that we put away the game unfinished, sure that everyone would agree. Clearly, this was fun for no one. The howls of protest I encountered were deafening. "No, mom! You promised we could play!" I pointed out that no one was enjoying the game. "What?!" came the shriek of protests. "Yes we are TOO having fun!" My mistake. We carried on.

It is hard for me to believe that the children will look back at this particular part of their childhood fondly, but I somehow know that they will. Will I, too, sugarcoat the memory and imagine us all sitting companionably around the game board, laughing together and assisting one another? Maybe I will. We all know about parenting amnesia; I, for one, hope mine is an acute case.

So, what are we playing tomorrow?

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