I love spending time with my family almost as much as I love making them miserable. That’s why I do both on family game nights.
You know what I absolutely adore? The shrill whining of my child and husband as I gather them ’round the hearth, forcing them to spend time with one another. After a long day of work, school-related activities, driving an hour away to get my kid to roller derby on time, folding a few loads of laundry and making a dinner everyone will either shovel, grunting, into their mouths, or pick at petulantly, nothing warms the cockles of my cold heart more than hearing my darling family talk about how badly they want to me to leave them alone so they can relax.
That’s when I whip out Settlers of Catan, Quirkle, or Sorry! and glare at the beloved fruit of my loins and love of my life until they shut up and choose a game piece. If I’m feeling particularly petty, I might grab Monopoly off the shelf and ask, innocently, why everyone is looking at me like that.
I will use my dying breath to force my family to spend time with each other, because I think it’s important. Also, because I find it funny to watch them get all huffy about it. It’s the jerk part of me. It’s a large part.
In all seriousness, I do it to offset my extensive bad parenting habits. What’s an hour of TV here? A dinner of popcorn and Kool-Aid there? How much damage can a few hours of Xbox really do? I could compensate for my dismal parenting in other places. I could, for instance, sign my kid up for an activity each day of the week and ensure she’s too exhausted to complain about dinner or take us all to the art museum, an activity exactly one of us (me) would enjoy.
Or, I could muscle through the initial complaints to get to the part where we’re all sitting, coffee and cocoa in hand, fighting over who gets to be the dog, laughing about some silly move that my husband makes. I can pretend to be vastly affronted when my daughter and my husband join forces against me in some benign alliance to take over Catan.
I’m aware that our time together is limited, and dwindling, even now. There will come a time that my daughter won’t even want to hang out with me, let alone haggle for possession of St. James Place.
I don’t have a particularly exciting legacy to leave my kid. I do laundry. I check reading assignments. Sometimes I write things for the internet, but since the internet will hopefully be broken into a million pieces by the time she gets to use it, she might never read them. She won’t remember that time I made subpar chicken marsala or drove her to derby or hounded her to pick up her stupid socks from every conceivable nook and cranny. She won’t remember the plot of that extra episode of SpongeBob I let her watch because I had work to finish.
Hopefully, she’ll remember game night. Maybe she’ll have kids of her own one day and force them to play Zingo and Trivial Pursuit and drown out their whining and force them to bond, dammit. I’ll force my family to play games together for as long as it’s feasibly possible to do so, because I hope they’ll look back and pick out this one good thing.that their dorky mom/wife made them do.
Also, when the internet is broken in Futureland, think about how useful it will be to know all of the rules to Risk. You’re welcome, family.