Creating Family Ties that Last

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an-open-book-carol-allen-anfinsen

An Open Book

I recently enjoyed a visit with my oldest son and his family who traveled to Florida. We crammed in as much as we could with the short time allotted to us. We took in the beach and the wonderful Gulf waters, still clean and pristine on the southwestern shores. We enjoyed the parks and wildlife as much as weather would allow. But the most memorable fun came in the evenings when we watched a movie or played games around the kitchen table.

The family had brought a game called “Apples to Apples;” a vocabulary builder that makes you think. We spent two hours playing this fun game and laughed so hard we cried at the comments from the kids and their wonderful imaginations.

I often worry about today’s families and wonder if they have enough memory building activities in their lives? They are so absorbed with work and separated by technology, phones and computers. Playing games with my children and grandchildren gave me hope, and it brought back a whole lot of memories.

My grandfather, a school teacher, loved entertaining his grandchildren. When my cousins and I got out of hand, he’d set us to work in his garden or distract us with games. Not any old games; homemade games that were totally unfamiliar to us. My favorite used a classic Coke bottle and a box of toothpicks. Each person received twenty picks to start.

The objective was to lay a toothpick across the lip of the bottle, in turns. The first person to topple the stack kept them. Anytime you caused a pick or picks to drop, you added them to your pile. The first person to get rid of all their picks was the winner. We played the game until the loser, usually the youngest child, got tired of being “the fall guy.”

When the floor game “Pickup Sticks” came out, it was never as much fun as grandpa’s toothpick game.

"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

My sons liked to play “uncle” when they were young. They wrestled on the floor until one of them had the other in a painful twist. Relief came only by yelling “uncle.” Enduring pain and refusing to say the magic word somehow enhanced their manhood. Horsing around took the pressure off, and gave them an excuse for male bonding. The rough and tumble helped them avoid that personal hug or embarrassing show of affection.

Horsing around or playing games is good for coordination, skill building, and brain power. It provides a means for fellowship and promotes conversation. The laughter and talk that takes place during the game is a natural outcome.

When my children were all still at home, our TV went out. We waited to get a replacement just to see what would happen without our hypnotizing, addicting companion. Here are some of the things we did that my kids still talk about today.

We read several classic books together. Sprawled on the floor or with legs dangling over chair arms, the children’s imaginations soared as we read Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories; their favorite “The Elephant Child.” Other books on our list: “Mary Poppins,” “Treasure Island,” “Tom Sawyer,” and short stories by Charles Dickens.

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

This was before Harry Potter and Shrek. Trips to the library replaced other after school activities. We broadened our reading to include children’s plays. Each child took a part; the older children helping the younger. Simple costumes helped us stay in character. Giggles were the order of the day, but we did manage to put on several plays, including “The Nativity” and the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve.

Once a week, we had a cooking session in the kitchen. The children learned how to make simple things like no-bake cookies, candies, Jello, fancy sandwiches and French toast. One evening the older children learned how to sew on a button. I introduced them to skills I thought they should know before they left home.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It was a fun time while it lasted. Besides making memories and learning new things, we learned a lot about each other. When we finally purchased a new TV, it engulfed our lives once again. We went back to our old routines, but the change of pace had made a difference.

During a power outage when my seventeen year old daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, they survived. She didn’t want us to worry, so she didn’t tell us. They slept in their sleeping bags and ate cold food for three days until we returned. They had a great time telling stories, putting on plays, and singing songs just as we had done before on our nights-without-TV.

I sometimes feel sad for the young people of today who miss out on good old-fashioned fun, or do they? My husband and I visited with our older children in Minnesota. We were invited to be part of an interactive musical game called: “Guitar Hero.” I was given the drum sticks and waited for the signal lights that told me when to play. The rhythm increased in increments, and soon I was giggling and missing a beat here and there.

Next I played a guitar and had to strum to the tune of a green beeping light. My husband and his grandson played other instruments; his granddaughter sang solo, and everyone else clapped and sang along. By the time we were done, everyone was laughing. The whole family joined in and had a great time singing, clapping and laughing at the players onstage.

Times have changed, and the methods may be different, but families still know how to have fun together. The age-old problem is making the time. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it. The adage: “the family who prays together stays together” also works well with this phrase: “the family who plays together stays together.” So pray and play your hearts out. Make memories that last!

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