We have this tradition of "Family Fun Night" where we do something fun all together - like play a board game or go for a walk or go to the arcade etc. It doesn't have to be a big thing. The point is to be together and be playful. It was much easier to pull off when the kids were little because pretty much any night could be family fun night. Now (because of chorus and wrestling and karate and scouts and game) we're limited to Monday nights or the one Friday a month when we have everyone. And those nights often get preempted by homework or the kids wanting to go out with friends instead of hanging out with the family. Once in a while, I wonder to myself if maybe I should let go of family fun night - let it slip away the way other early childhood traditions have done. After all, we eat dinner together regularly, we talk to our kids and they talk to us. We know their friends and their friends parents, at least by sight if not to have over for cocktails. <-- Um, I meant the parents there, not the kids. We're somewhat non-conformist but not to the point that we'd invite teenagers over for drinks for heaven's sake! But even if family fun night doesn't happen every week, I have been reluctant to let it go. After this past Monday, I realized I was silly to even think about letting it go.
Very Best Girl Friend (VBGF) was here for the Superbowl and it was our weekend to have the kids - so in a sense we'd had family fun for days and days. As much fun as we'd had though, the activities had been in smaller groups: me taking Havoc to the wrestling meet, Sweet Hubby (SH) and the bigger kids meeting us later and then them going out to eat while I went to check on VBGF; Nurse Nice coming out to hang with us for the afternoon; VBGF taking Chaos to a memorial service for the father of one of his friends; the kids playing miniatures; VBGF, Havoc and I watching the Superbowl with SH wandering in and out (the other kids weren't interested because their teams weren't in it). We hadn't done anything all together. VBGF didn't have to go back until Tuesday so on Monday, she and I ended up making a terrific hamburger soup. The house smelled good and we all sat down for supper together. I think SH is the one who suggested a movie for FFN and the kids jumped on it. Granted, they originally wanted to watch "The Pacifier" and had to be talked into "Armageddon" instead - but they were excited about it in the end. "Armageddon" was new on our HD movie list - and I voted for it because I remembered liking it more than I had expected to in the theater years ago. Until it started, I did not remember exactly how many years ago it had been! One of the opening scenes showed the New York City skyline - with the twin towers. What a gut punch. I gulped and VBGF and SH both said, "Wow" at the same time. We paused the movie for a second and talked about it. Havoc didn't quite understand until we explained to him what those two buildings were - after all, he wasn't quite three on September 11th, 2001. A few minutes later, when small pieces of asteroid are streaking through the city there is a scene in a cab with some tourists who want to go shopping and don't know why the taxi has stopped. The cabbie shouts back that they're in a traffic jam and no one is going anywhere. He explains that this is New York City - it could be a terrorist attack or a something or a something. I'm sorry I can't remember what the something's were because my mind was completely stuck on the fact that the first thing he said was it could be a terrorist attack. It is not uncommon for NYC or at least parts of it to get obliterated in disaster movies - but it was HARD to see the towers both burning - one with a chunk out of the side of it a few minutes later. To be fair, the top of the Empire State building comes crashing to the ground too - and that had little or no impact on me. Clearly the first time I saw the movie, the images of the towers had so little impact on me that I didn't even remember that happening at all - but man, oh man it brought tears to my eyes this time.
The rest of the movie played out and we all enjoyed it. We talked a little about disaster movies with tornadoes and volcanoes and how this one had come out to counter "Deep Impact". We talked a bit about the theme of everyday people being the ones called up to save the world. We chatted about Bruce Willis and "Fifth Element" (a family favorite) and "Lucky Number Slevin" (a grownups only family favorite). We chased the kids to bed (with Mayhem already coming down with a fever - yikes). It was a great FFN and each one of the kids said thank you and gave out extra hugs.
That, in and of itself, would have recommitted me to keeping this family tradition alive - but it's been the smaller conversations later this week that have clenched it for me. Havoc wanted me to tell him more about the morning of September 11th - about how a friend had called and I'd turned on the news a minute before the second tower was struck. He wanted to hear about how I held him and cried and then went to get the other kids from school. He wanted to hear about how his Aunt Deb had looked out of her window in the Newsweek publishing building and saw it all. He wanted to hear about how when I was 11, I'd taken a tour and gone to the top of the one of the World Trade Towers. The Ninja Princessa had wandered in - and she commented that I'd done that when I was exactly her age now. Havoc slipped off to play with Legos in his room, but the Princessa and I talked about how the world changes and what it might be like when she has kids that are 11. When all the other kids were at school on Tuesday, Mayhem - all pathetic and pale in his bed - asked me about what we'd do if an asteroid really was headed for the earth. I asked him if he worried about that. He said no, but then he also said that it would be better probably for all life to end because of an asteroid that we couldn't help than because of people hurting each other with nuclear bombs. I sat with him for quite a while as he told me about the kinds of things he does worry about. I don't quite know what to say in those situations. He's thinks about some big things for a little guy - although at 12, almost 13, I suppose he's not that little anymore. I did reassure him about the things I could - and he ended up reassuring himself about some things just by talking about them out loud. He told me he liked talking to me and also, could he have an extra big lunch because he was really hungry. We had lunch and the conversation morphed into things he's looking forward to. Later, Chaos talked to me about third grade. He didn't quite talk about September 11th - but he started in that time frame for himself and he ended up asking me about military things. He wants to get his ears pierced but he also knows that he can't have that in the military. He wanted to know if he would just have to take the jewelry out while in uniform or if he would have to let the holes close all the way up. Then, he asked about North Korea and where I saw things in Iraq being in 5 years. He asked if I thought the world would be around by the time he grew up. Wow. That ended up being a great conversation - we talked about how people had felt that sense of doom at different times in history. We talked about the Cuban Missile Crisis and about eclipses and tsunamis. I told him that I had great faith in humanity. He told me he wanted to be part of the group that made things better. I had to squash (hard) the urge to tell him that I didn't think the military would be that group - having joined the Navy myself, 20 years ago for the same reasons he was telling me about now. I did let myself say that I thought there were lots and lots of groups working for solutions - scientists, pastors, health care providers, volunteers of all sorts all over the world, not just here in the States. Then he started naming some groups he thought were working hard too that I'd left off the list - teachers and the Red Cross and even film makers who made people think. Yeah, all in all, I have to say that Family Fun Night is here to stay.