Summer is here and we are out of school. I find myself repeating the phrase that my mother would always say, “Find something to do or I will find something for you to do.” We were off for a total of two days before I started thinking about starting school again. Living in Florida, I have the same thought every year. Why do we take the summer off instead of the winter? It’s a million degrees outside. We don’t have a pool. No one wants to go outside and play. Which means that 8 little people are bouncing off the walls inside.
The temptation is to let the TV be their babysitter. My kids will happily sit in front of a screen until their brains turn to mush and drip out of their ears. I could have peace and quiet, but at what cost? So, when I found myself letting us eat more meals in front of the TV instead of at the table, I decided to make a change. I instigated “Family Fun Night.”
I had each child come up with an idea of something they thought would be a fun evening activity. We put those ideas on little pieces of paper into a hat and each week had the toddler (since he can’t read and thus can’t cheat) pick a slip of paper.
We’ve had a puzzle game night, a water balloon fight, a backyard play night, and gone out for ice cream. I’d like to say that these nights have been totally and completely fun. That’s what we envision as parents, right? All our children happily playing and loving together. The memories they will build as they cement their friendships and journey peacefully through life together. I’d really like to say that’s what has happened.
Puzzle game night was first. It had been my suggestion and there was great moaning and complaining when it was the first slip of paper picked. I pulled out a huge, floor puzzle of the United States and we all sat on the floor and put it together. There was fussing and accusing people of being in the way, and one child hid a puzzle piece and let everyone spend five minutes looking for it before he produced it from his pocket.
Water balloon night went a little better. I’d bought some of those new water balloons on Wish.com. The kind that attach to the hose and you fill up thirty balloons at one time. They worked great and I quickly had a large tub filled with water balloons. I had them start with water balloon duels and then played water balloon toss in order to slow down the enjoyment. Seven children can throw 120 water balloons in under two minutes. The balloon toss turned into an all out war and we were all soaked and laughing and muddy. All except child #5 who was sitting on the porch and crying because someone had thrown a balloon at her face and her clothes were wet.
Backyard play was also met with derision, but running around after dinner was not usually something we have time for and everyone was having a good time. At least, until I went to heat up the baby’s food for dinner and the four year old jumped up on the counter and grabbed the boiling cup of water I’d just pulled out of the microwave. Backyard fun night turned into trip to the Walk-in Clinic night.
Going out for ice cream was met with loud cheers of excitement. This was the one they’d been waiting for! It was the hardest one, in my opinion, because it meant leaving the house with 8 kids, but it was in the hat and had been chosen fair and square. I loaded everyone up, called my brother and sister to come with us for crowd control and we arrived at a local ice cream shop that had outside seating. We even took the puppy.
It was like herding cats. They wandered everywhere, weren’t listening, fell off the curb and skinned their knees, dropped half their cone into the dirt, and one cried for twenty minutes because she hadn’t gotten to give her uncle a “high five” when we’d dropped him off.
Then I still had to give baths and brush teeth and hustle tired, over sugared children into bed. I was exhausted and beginning to wonder whether “fun” should be part of the “Family Fun Night” title.
That’s when my 7 year old (the child who had complained that “movie night” would be more fun than doing “boring stuff”) gave me a big hug and said, “Mom, that was the best night ever. I love Family Fun Night!”
I’m hoping that in ten years the tears and fighting and yelling will be forgotten and all we will remember is the fun.
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!