It’s the holidays.
I love everything about this time of year, from the cheesy carols and the smell of cedar, to the movies we’ve all seen a hundred times and the uptick in my cocktail consumption.
But I’ll be honest, even if I’m feeling pretty good and life in my house is humming along just fine, there is sometimes a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that it
could should be better.
And by it, I guess I really mean we.
This might have started with the Christmas specials we all grew up watching. No one I knew had a family like The Waltons, but that didn’t stop me from feeling that there was something wrong with not at least trying. Clearly, they knew something we didn’t.
Now, thanks to social media, there’s a forever feed of families holding hands in the snow, laughing while decorating the tree, or enjoying that special cozy feeling you might have heard about called hygge. (Ps- If you don’t know what that is, then you have some serious catching up to do on Pinterest.)
I know, I know, “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” But ask any thirteen year old girl (or fifty year old mom) on Instagram and they will tell you, that is a tall order.
Which is how I found myself sitting down to the worst family game night ever.
Our family of four had been kind of slacking on the togetherness thing. It’s easy to do, especially if your kids are at the age when they would rather be online, with their friends, or in their rooms than hanging out with the grownups.
And I can’t just blame my boys. I’m also guilty of putting family time on the back burner, mostly because we have so much of it. Since we homeschool and my husband works from home, we are in each other’s faces a lot. I’d thought the togetherness box was checked, but something still felt like it was missing.
What about… fun?
Five minutes on Facebook and I see at least a dozen friends having what looks like level 10 fun.
They are at Disneyland.
They are decorating hella Christmas cookies.
They are hiking, and snow-angel-ing, and adopting puppies, and just slaying it in the fun department.
So recently, after dinner and before the boys could disappear into their lairs, I proposed that we all play a good old fashioned board game.
“Someone choose a game!” I hollered good-naturedly, as I went to put my phone away. (Note: Game night, according to the experts requires a complete focus on fun and comradery, so no screens allowed).
When I returned, C. and the boys had set up Parcheesi.
Now, I am sure that when Parcheesi was invented, back in the fucking stone age, it was a great game, but the fun bar was pretty low back then. Now we have a lot of games to choose from and, in my opinion, almost any game is better than Parcheesi.
Not that I’m blaming what happened on their choice of games, but it didn’t help is all I’m saying.
It started out ok, with each of us rolling the dice trying to get a five. Or a two. Or whatever it is you have to roll before you’re allowed to even begin your epic trudge around the dismal game board.
After about fifteen minutes (but who’s counting), I may have made a comment about not liking Parcheesi, thus breaking The Golden Rule of family game night which is this: stay positive. The success of family game night depends on full compliance and maybe faking. My bad.
Truman, sensing an opportunity, chimed in. “Yeah, who picked this game?”
“You said you liked it,” Chester countered, while rolling the dice.
“I did not.” I felt a kick under the table.
“That was me, Truman,” I said, giving him The Look.
My husband hands me the dice. “Your turn.” Whatever I roll, it is not the right thing.
“Ugh. This game,” I say.
I know, my attitude wasn’t great. But before you judge too harshly, I challenge you to pull out your own Parcheesi board and see how long you can play before wanting to throw the whole thing against the wall and run screaming into the arms of Netflix.
My husband actually hung in there pretty well, but when the kids started bickering, he could maintain the charade no longer. Next thing I knew, he had jumped ship and was chilling with a crossword puzzle in the den.
“What happened to you?” I asked, annoyed that he had broken the fourth wall in our cozy family scene.
“No one seems into it,” he said.
“So?” I answered, a little pissed. Being “into it” seemed completely beside the point of family game night. You plow through, I thought, heading back to have my turn. You plow the fuck through and, eventually, it turns fun.
Or something like that.
I got back to the table, to find only Chester. “Where’s your brother?”
“He said he didn’t want to play.”
What followed was probably exactly what you’d imagine: mild bickering, followed by maternal guilt, teen angst, marital tension, and dashed hopes.
Also, no one had done the dishes.
Normally, the job of dishwashing would go to my husband and boys, but no family game night fail is complete without Mom getting her martyrdom on, so I decided to do them myself.
As I worked with soap and sponge, I allowed myself the luxury of brooding. What was wrong with us? Why can’t we have fun playing a shitty game like other families do? We love each other, it goes without saying. We’ve had lots of great times together and, not to sound braggy, but our family functions pretty well, in general.
This train of thought did nothing to salvage the night, but it passed the time. Like most family stumbles, at least the uncomplicated ones, the only remedy was a good night’s sleep and a new day.
The next night, we sat around the dinner table, same as the night before. I’d made a really lame risotto. It was kind of gluey and had no flavor, probably because I had come down with a head cold and couldn’t taste anything. I’d lost my voice, as well. Not exactly picture perfect.
It’s probably no coincidence that, on the one night that I was forced to listen more than talk, our boys had a lot to say. The food might have been mediocre, but the company was great.
Everyone ate, no one rushed off, and at some point, someone said something, and we cracked up. It was the kind of laughter that feeds on itself, the kind you can’t stop, the kind that’s a choking hazard but totally worth it.
It was the kind of laughter that makes you close. “Carbonated holiness,” as Anne Lamott would say.
At some point, Truman broke the dinnertime rule and pulled out his phone, but instead of checking Instagram, he snapped a pic of me, in full hysterics.
I love this very unflattering photo of me. If, in the end, my sons remember me just like this, I’ll be a proud mom. Our family may never play Parcheesi together again (#goals), and we are not likely to come caroling in your neighborhood this Christmas, but we definitely know how to laugh.
Enjoy your holidays, in your own weird wonderful way. I wish you peace, love, and a fountain of carbonated holiness 🙂