We all know quality time with our kids is important. We know they thrive when they feel safe, and loved, and prioritized. For our family it is usually a game night, but sometimes it can feel a little like purgation. Can anyone say Candyland?
Here’s a scenario that may resonate with you:
It’s time to play the much-anticipated game. It’s the seven-year-old’s turn to choose and three of his older siblings want to play with us. He goes to the armoire, burgeoning with games, and I hold my breath, hoping he chooses, Uno or maybe Phase 10, but much to my dismay I see him awkwardly balancing Apples to Apples Jr. on his small hands declaring to the room that he “will win this time for sure!”
We sit around the table as he slowly and emphatically counts and deals the cards. The first topic is “Lucky.” “What does it say, Mommy?” Oh, did I forget to mention that the child who chose the game isn’t really reading yet, but insists that he play alone and not on a team? We go around the table, everyone giggling while they chose their card and put it in the pile. The child-of-honor picks up the cards and painfully begins to sound out each letter and determine which noun is, in fact, best paired with the adjective he drew. This goes on for a while until one of his siblings grabs the cards out of his hand and says “let me do it, you can’t read!” Then the lobbying begins: “Marshmallows are lucky because you are super lucky if you get to eat one!” “Horses are lucky because I like to pretend they are unicorns, and unicorns are super lucky.” And then, inevitably the child chooses whichever card “that brother” did not play and not the appropriate and obvious “Four Leaf Clover” card his dad played. (Although anonymity is the name of the game, this subtlety is totally lost on them, and they always choose the card of the sibling they are least concerned will beat them).
My husband takes a deep breath, because although he knows it doesn’t matter if he wins, the sheer stupidity of the round makes him want to grandstand for the absolute validity of his card, which was haphazardly discarded in the name of sibling rivalry. You get the picture. This goes on for as many rounds as we can stand. The seven-year-old keeps asking, “What does this card say” only to play the card without any anonymity whatsoever, making it impossible to win as round after round, his card is not chosen because they know it is his card. And now they are fighting and crying over who is cheating, and who is winning, and something about the grave injustices of large-family life.
However painful this is, somehow, every Tuesday they just cannot wait to do it again! And even though my husband and I grow slightly weary of the noise, and the bickering, and the painstaking phonics lessons mixed in, we know we will miss these days desperately when they are gone, and there are always a few moments of genuine hilarity. And hopefully, when they have kids, they will remember that we loved making time for them, and then call to thank us, because now they hate Candyland too.