My girls don't watch TV in the evenings.
I don't say that because I feel holier than thou, it's just the way it is in our family. But sometimes, I admit, it is hard. There are times when Mark and I are tired and busy, and flipping the channel to PBS would be the easiest thing in the world to do. But we don't. We force ourselves to do something else: fold laundry, read books, play a game. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
We have a huge pile of games we like to play. I gravitate toward the classics: Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Monopoly Jr., UNO, Trouble, Operation, Connect Four, Rebound, among others. The girls are really stuck on Mousetrap, but to tell you the truth it's not my favourite game. Emma is finally beginning to understand Battleship, which is a pretty cool game in my book.
We used to have a Tuesday night game night but somehow it dissolved and now there is no regular routine. Regardless of when we do it, the girls love game night.
Before you get all verklempt thinking about this happy family scene, let me direct you back to the first paragraph and remind you that sometimes Mark and I are not in the most POSITIVE, CHEERFUL and (most importantly) PATIENT frame of mind between 7 and 8 p.m. Mostly we're just plain tired, and that takes a toll on our general outlook. It's sad, isn't it, that we can be such downers on game night?
Last week we got out a lovely little game called Bialo. We received it as a gift some time back from our dear friends James and Melissa. It's a very sweet game, and simple too. The object is to flick your piece into the coloured rings in the middle. You move around a board depending on where your piece landed.
We haven't played it very much because (until now) the kids haven't been coordinated enough. It's recommended for ages 4+, but four is actually a little young to be able to pull it off. Flicking the piece demands a sensitive touch, and since Sarah's the youngest we didn't want her to feel at a disadvantage.
So imagine the scene: Mark and I are feeling burned out and our children are flicking little bamboo pieces all over the place. Sarah (who has never been able to keep still) is squirming and knocking the pieces off the board. Emma is being equally goofy. I'm trying to take a photo to document said "game night" for myself and the Internet, and between gritted teeth we are both reminding the girls to buckle down and get serious about the game.
I wondered how, and when, the fun got sucked out of me and I turned into such a grump. Did we actually say "buckle down" and "you're making it really hard for me to concentrate"? Ugh. How awful is that?
On the one hand I want to teach my kids that games, as well as good sportsmanship, are important. It's like teaching table manners, isn't it? We don't let our kids carry on at the table, so isn't this similar? But at the same time I don't want my kids to grow to dislike our game nights together because mummy and daddy are so anal about game play.
Perhaps we should have gone out for a walk and skipped the games.
By the way, guess who won our game of Bialo? It took us 30 squirmy minutes to get around the board, but it was Sarah who finally won.
Andrea is a freelance writer and Web go-to gal who lives with her family in Ottawa, Canada. She prefers to play UNO.