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A Family that Plays Together Stays Together

November 19, 2011

There are things about your significant other that you don’t find out until after you’re married and it’s too late to re-write your vows.  Just over six years into our marriage, I’d have to utter that while I love my Wifey dearly, I do not like her very much when she plays Monopoly (she feels the same way about me when I play euchre).  Our dislike of the others persona that emerges during these specific games is so intense that we refuse to play with one another.

Wifey plays a viciously competitive game of Monopoly with the kids that usually results in someone crying and storming away from the table.  Euchre was too complex for the kids when we first adopted them and so it never became a family staple.

Despite our incompatibility around these two games, Wifey and I fancy ourselves as the heads of a family that likes board games.  We talk about how much we enjoy them, we ask for them as gifts, we have developed quite a substantial collection, yet we so rarely play as a family.  Mostly that’s because any given game will expose the weakness of a particular family member that will lead to tantrums, tears or a full-out argument.

Wifey is ridiculously competitive, I don’t have the patience or attention span that it requires to play with the kids, Bubaloo is a poor sportsman who sulks as soon as he starts to lose, and Bella doesn’t always get what’s going on with the rules and becomes easily frustrated.

With the recent onset of baby-induced exhaustion, Wifey and I had been feeling pretty disconnected from the big kids and were looking for ways to spend some quality time together.  One of the challenges that is becoming inherently clear in having a multi-generational family is that any activity usually appeals or is accessible to only 4 of the 5 family members.  The one exception to this rule seems to be board games.

In the name of togetherness, we’ve been playing games with the big kids.  It’s not without its hazards, but we’re trying.

Last weekend we pulled out Risk while Baby A took a nap.  It was awful.  It was so slow-moving that when Baby A woke up I snuck out of the game and happily let the remaining three play on my behalf.  Then Bubaloo had a meltdown and left the table in tears because his territories kept on getting invaded.  Wifey and Bella, much to my surprise, happily played the game to its end.

We decided to try for some family fun again tonight and I picked up Cranium off our shelf.

We’ve had Cranium since we adopted Bella and Bubaloo.  It was one of the first family games we bought, and at the time, everyone kept on telling me how much fun it was.  I was so excited to finally get my hands on it and create a new family tradition.

While the game is for kids ages 8 and up, and Bella and Bubaloo were 9 and 11 at the time, the reading required to play was too much for them.  Our kids had somehow escaped attending school for their lives until this point without anyone ever realizing that they couldn’t read.  Playing Cranium with them back then was a painful revelation.  I don’t even think we finished the game.  We all were frustrated.  They struggled though each and every clue because they couldn’t read. Of course we tried to help them, and even fished through the deck for simple cards they could understand, but we just couldn’t make it fun. It was awful.

Cranium sat on our shelves for a very, very, very long time.  Untouched.

Tonight Cranium was good.    The game seemed, almost dare I say, juvenile!  The clues were easy for both of the kids to read aloud.  They had a lot of fun with the zany tasks and questions.  They played with a balanced level of competitiveness and team camaraderie.

While nearly five years has lapsed since we last touched this game, it’s moments like these that I remember how far our kids have come.  Our little family has done pretty good.

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