My sisters and I always looked forward to family night with childlike eagerness.
My all-time favorite was “Mahaney Family Olympics.” When the 1984 Olympics took place, I was eight and Kristin was seven. We were captured by the sheer excitement of it all. I think that’s why this particular family night is so vivid in my memory.
In our flannel nightgowns we ran races around the dining room table. We threw ping pong balls into a bowl of water. And we we had a relay race with toothpicks and lifesavers. (You had to put the toothpick in your mouth, put the lifesaver on the toothpick and then transfer it to your partner—no hands). The climactic moment came when Dad would line us up in the foyer and hum the national anthem while awarding us our “medals.” I can’t imagine the athletes felt more happiness than we did.
Another favorite family night was the time we switched places at the dinner table. My mom had us draw the name of another family member and we had to sit in their seat at dinner and behave like them throughout the meal. I remember it being so funny to see my dad imitating my Uncle Grant (who lived with us at the time) and my mom acting silly like Janelle.
We repeated this family night again about fifteen years later along with the two pastors’ college students who lived in our basement. It was even more hysterical the second time, and enlightening too, to see everyone’s idiosyncracies acted out by another member of the family.
Finally, “Backwards Night” was inspired by the definitions of the word “backwards”: “doing something in the reverse of the usual, the right way,” and “toward the past.” We, of course, did everything backwards for that particular family night. We had breakfast for dinner. And we had to have fulfilled a “backward assignment” during the day and tell about it at dinner. The options were to wear an article of clothing backwards (one that people could see!), eat our lunch backwards in the pesence of a friend, walk backwards around the outside of the house three times (while it was still daytime!), or wear a nametag all day with our name written backwards. Then, at dinner, after we reported on our humiliating “backward assignment,” we looked backwards over the past year and recounted one specific example of God’s goodness.
These and countless other family nights formed a childhood rich in laughter and fun. I am so grateful for the time and effort my parents invested in these rich memories for my sisters and me. And I hope Steve and I can provide Jack with many funny, happy memories too.
From the time our children were very young we have had a weekly “family night.” This is an evening we set aside each week where we eat a special dinner together and do a fun activity. The purpose is to build family closeness and create special memories. Now some 25 years later, we have a whole collection of memories that we review often with fondness and laughter. I must tell you, though, that some of our laughter comes from remembering family nights that went awry. We had times when our fun activity became a “resolving conflict activity” or times when the fun activity turned out to be not so fun after all! Like the time I planned for everyone to paint those little plaster houses to display under our Christmas tree. I had picked up this great idea from another mom, only I neglected to consider the fact that her family is very talented when it comes to doing crafts while my family is not. Our painting project did not go well. By the end of the evening, we had not succeeded in producing pretty painted Christmas houses; sinful attitudes were being displayed instead. Given how dreadful the houses looked, we eventually threw them away. Though we weren’t laughing on this particular family night, we have certainly laughed about it many times since. This goes to show that even when a family night doesn’t go as planned it can still be a fun memory someday. And we want to provide our families with a whole lot of fun memories! That’s why family nights are well worth the time and effort it takes to make them happen. As Tedd Tripp points out:
“The most powerful way to keep your child from being attracted by the offers of camaraderie with the wicked is to make home an attractive place to be. Young people do not run from places where they are loved and know unconditional acceptance. They do not run away from homes where there are solid relationships. They do not run from homes in which the family is planning activities and doing exciting things.” Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, Pa.: Shepherd Press, 1995), 195.
Now I am always on the lookout for creative ideas for family nights, and I’m sure many of you are as well. So we thought we would post some of our favorites over the next several days, and we’d also like to hear about yours. If you have a fun family activity you’d like to share with everyone, please email us by clicking on the “Email me” link on the left sidebar. We will post some of the best ideas next week. We look forward to hearing from you!
We’re traveling home from vacation today, so we thought we’d leave you with one more quote to wrap up our series on speech. This one is our favorite!
“Our use of the tongue is a sure evidence of the condition of our heart. It is the hinge on which the door into our souls swings open in order to reveal our spirit. In effect our words are like so many media people rushing to file their reports on the condition of our soul.” Sinclair Ferguson
We hope you have a grace filled day! See you tomorrow!