When the kids were little, we ate dinner together every night. Even on sports nights or Wednesday night church–we just ate at the church or at 8:00 p.m.
Now that they’re all teenagers, we’re starting to go in different directions more often. About a year ago we created a family night: a night where the kids (and parents) are not to plan anything other than staying at home and being available. Sunday night was best because we could ask them if they had their weekend homework done and we could make sure everyone got into bed on time to prepare for the week.
But then we started to become lackadaisical about family night. Sunday rolls around, and I’m not ready because I want to clean the kitchen before I make dinner. Dad isn’t ready, he has to check something on his computer, one kid doesn’t come home on time..another hangs out outside waiting–but doesn’t come in until we make him.
Then we spend 30 minutes talking about what board game to play, but in the end, no one really wants to play a game. So we talk about watching a movie, but since we don’t have any new Dr. Who episodes, no one can seem to agree. Some of us want to go for a walk or to the park…others don’t. The hard thing about raising strong, independent young people is sometimes they get these annoying opinions.
It isn’t long before everyone’s starting to dream of all the other things they could be doing. Cleaning toilets…studying for next year’s SAT …sleeping.
This week, we were stuck in the “Wot ya wan’ ta do tonight?” mode when my daughter took the initiative: A favorite dinner and a Red Box movie.
I didn’t want to spend money–or even make a run to the grocery store–but this is the point.
The purpose of family night is really a “date night.” It is to celebrate each other and enjoy each other. Even more so, to make the kids feel special, cherished, honored. Everything I would want on a date night with My Mr. Knightly.
So while eating up the leftovers, having the kids clear dishes while I drink a glass of wine with my husband, and then playing Wise and Otherwise is my ideal of a perfect evening…it isn’t a family night.
I can hear the argument “Every day is kids’ day.” But even though you choose your spouse and you can’t choose your kids or parents, you do choose whether or not you still want to hang out together after they turn 18.
And building a relationship is more than making sure they have basic needs provided and their homework finished.
- turn family night into a date night
- be on purpose (plan)
- make it a priority, so that you are willing to spend money (time and effort) on it
Of course you can take turns choosing who picks the movie/game/activity. This helps each of us look forward to our turn and be generous when it isn’t our preferred movie or activity. But isn’t really about what you do as much as the motive behind it–which everyone notices even if you don’t spell it out. Mandatory-touch-base-night versus a romantic celebration.
Basically, make family night something everyone wants to do.