Happy parents make happy children.
"Family fun doesn't start AFTER you get a family. It is a lifestyle of learning to 'goof off' effectively."
-(Phil Myers, father of six, family seminar leader, retired professor, and missionary to Indonesia)
You've probably heard it said that the family that PRAYS together stays together. How true! It's difficult to harbor angry feelings and vent hurtful words when you are praying with someone. The Spirit invades, convicting and convincing one to forgive and move on.
But equally stable is the family that PLAYS together. Just as setting aside time for family prayer takes some planning and scheduling, so does family playtime. Except for those brief times of spontaneity that are bound to pop up occasionally, playtime will not happen unless someone decides it will happen. Unless, of course, you share a home with a family of otters, whose very existence depends on fun and games! =) Most, of us, however, have to work at having fun. But, take heart, all your efforts will pay off. Even though there may be times when your best laid plans for fun result in long faces and frowns, there will be plenty of other occasions when happy smiles, giggles, warmth and love combine to exude a heartfelt thanks. It takes plenty of quantity time to produce quality time.
So, how can you pull the troops out of their cave (the Internet, television, or telephone) and motivate them to engage in some family fun? Here are a few suggestions for your consideration, some costly, some cheap, and some FREE.
Attend a sporting event--hockey, basketball, football, or whatever floats your boat!
Walk through a museum. Chuck says this is about as fun as eating dirt, but the girls and I have found it a treat, especially if the display coincides with a family hobby or interest, like rock or stamp collecting or space navigation.
Take the family golfing. Now there's one Chuck would heartily support. And then there's the good ole family vacation--a week at the beach, mountains, lake, the hardy cross-country trip in the rented RV. Now there's an adventure that won't soon be forgotten. Remember that it usually takes about three weeks after the vacation to feel bonded with the whole thing and with one another, so allow time for the full effect. While the turned over canoe with all the lost food and supplies may not seem humorous while it is happening, it probably will be weeks down the road. For the truly hard-liners, it may take years, but hey, you were together, right? And that's what counts. Sometimes shared tragedy can cement families more than the lighter times, so look for the glue in the situation.
Take an airplane ride. We did this once at Kitty Hawk while visiting the Wright Brothers' Memorial. Two of our girls were especially interested in aviation, so this was a highlight for them.
Eat at your favorite restaurant. Try a fancy one occasionally, just so you can practice etiquette skills, like which fork to use when (tip: always start from the outside and work your way in toward the plate). Buffets are our favorite. So much food for such a small price. We have finally settled on a buffet that we all like--Chinese. Find the one that you like. Take turns if there are varying opinions.
MODERATE EXPENSE FUN
Go to the zoo. Small children especially like this one. Take pictures and make a scrapbook, labeling the name of each animal beside the photo.
Go fishing. Some of our fondest memories when the girls were little was rigging up some make-shift poles, driving to the lake with our buckets, and catching tiny blue gill, which we would throw in the bucket, watch swim around, and then toss back in the lake at the end of the day. I can still picture the girls with pant legs rolled up, lying on their bellies, dangling off the end of the pier, gazing into the murky water.
Go horseback riding. We just happened to have some family members in Ohio who raised show horses, so whenever we made a visit, they invited us to ride. This event produced great family videos, sometimes quite humorous, as one of us would shout orders to the horse that would immediately charge off down the pasture, rider holding on for dear life. I can still hear those words, "Canter, Jilly, canter!"
Other moderate priced activities include bowling, tennis, swimming, racquetball, and a trip to the planetarium. Another fun activity is giving each child a roll of film to shoot and seeing what he comes up with.
FREE FUN . . . well, almost (Now we're talking!)
Make homemade ice cream. Takes me back to one of our first homes, out on the back steps on a summer Saturday evening. Barefoot children. Kick the can. Neighbors stopping by, just in time for a scoop.
Make a home movie with your camera. Then pop corn or make taffy or cookies.
Go on a nature hike. Start a hobby night. Visit a dairy or factory. Finger paint. Play Monopoly. Go on a picnic. Walk through a cemetery, and then sit and write a poem or draw a picture. Remember that fun can also include helping someone else, like a neighbor or widow, or visiting the rescue mission or nursing home.
Some of our best moments as a family have been those times of just lying around on the floor. Before long, someone says something funny, and everyone breaks out laughing which leads to more funny comments, and before you know it, everyone is rolling on the floor, sides aching, and tears flowing. Just stupid stuff. The stuff that memories are made of. Glue. Togetherness. Just goofing off.
Why not try a little family fun this week? Don't wait until the kids are grown. They'll think you're crazy. Start now while they are young and allow the family fun to grow with them.
Pat Riley, father of a son (17) and daughter (13), and famed coach of the Lakers, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat, who was also three-time NBA Coach of the Year and destined for the Hall of Fame says,
"I missed alot of my life because basketball was always in the way of everything: family, fun, concerts, and trips. It was always in the way in a very preoccupying way. When your life passes you by and you see your children grow up, you miss so much because you gave so much of your mind and spiritual thought to the game you wish you could do it over again. At least now, I have more balance in terms of that. I don't let the game get in the way of a better life."
Coach Riley was playing so hard at basketball, he neglected to play with his family. Perhaps we each need to learn a lesson from the coach. Maybe you need to decide which game you will invest the most time playing.