We all know parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. And for the past nine years of parenthood, my husband and I have been figuring things out as we go while also getting tips from our parents or other experienced parent friends, reading books, and following advice from pediatricians and child-development experts. At times, it’s been hit or miss. Other times our own instincts have proven reliable and not catastrophic. As it turns out, we have good gut instincts when it comes to our own kiddos. When we are coming from a place of love and concern, everything seems to work itself out.
But there is one area of parenting where I have felt some guilt, at times: dinner as a family. We are not the kind of parents who regularly manage to have dinner all together as a family. Our kids are 9 and 6, and they get hungry much earlier than we do. Sometimes when we’re fixing dinner for the kids, one of us parents is still working or running around getting chores done. It is just not realistic for us to do family dinner time at this stage of our lives. And we are OK with this.
How “family fun night” began
A few months ago, though, my husband came up with a great idea. He suggested we could choose one day each week when we commit to doing something all together as a family. I immediately lit up. “We could call it family fun night!” We started brainstorming the details. We looked at our schedules, which include almost nightly baseball practice for my son and swim/dance/gymnastics lessons for my daughter. We quickly realized Wednesday was our only open day and decided that would be the day for family fun night.
Next, we presented the plan to the kids as a one-hour family activity each Wednesday. (Why one hour, you ask? Well, because they are young, and we are trying something new, and anything longer than an hour could create the potential for the fun to fall apart to arguments, tantrums, or testing of the boundaries.) We explained that each week, it would be one family member’s turn to choose the activity for family fun night. The kids were ecstatic when we told them about the new family tradition we were implementing. They got on board immediately and could not wait for our first Wednesday to arrive.
How it’s going…
Over the past several weeks we have done everything from playing board games, to face painting, to indoor hide and seek, to puzzles, Twister, and coloring. One night our daughter had us playing baby doll hospital. Another time I gave everyone a massage with soothing oils under candlelight. It’s been the best thing for our little family, and I am so grateful to my husband for thinking of it. As the weather gets warmer, I am looking forward to outdoor family fun and new creative ideas for things to do.
The benefits of family fun night
Of course this has been a great bonding experience for our family, but there’s one great perk I hadn’t anticipated: It’s been an incredible learning experience for all of us. We have found that these activities are helping us all learn about handling disappointment, showing grace to one another, patiently diffusing arguments, encouraging each other, and simply being together as our truest, most authentic selves and being loved just as we are, by the people who matter most.
Maybe we’re the last family to come up with this “innovative idea.” Or maybe there are others out there who, like us, were going through the motions and merely hanging out with each other in between every other commitment. If you could use a family fun night and can figure out a way to implement it one night a week and show up for it consistently, I highly encourage you to give it a try!
We didn’t think there was anything missing or wrong with the way we were doing things, but now that we have family fun night, I feel like we are doing something right — and I would not have it any other way! So go for it, have a blast, and share about it with a family you love!