Like many other families, mine is sheltering in place. We’re all staying home, all the time. I’ve been scrambling to find things for the kids to do, but so far they’ve resisted. They’re fiercely independent and strong willed, so generally if it’s “Mom’s idea,” it’s not a good idea.
They’ve created several of their own games to play together, and their own games work relatively well in between school work and their inevitable disagreements. But part of me wishes we could find something to do together to strengthen our family’s bond.
To get good ideas, I have to look back on my own childhood to see what sticks out in my memory.
Three family activities stand out. The first is Sunday night dinner. My dad would always order pizza, rip the boxes in half, and use them as plates. We would eat on the floor of the family room and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos together. For me, it was the highlight of the week.
I loved hearing my dad laugh at all the klutzy people. And every public humiliation was enhanced with Bob Saget’s voice overs. My three older brother always ended up getting sucked into the laughter too. For a half hour, our family shelved the urgent matters of everyday life to enjoy the blessing of pizza and laughter.
Our family game nights from my childhood also inspire me. We’d gather around the table and typically play either Life or Clue. We played Mousetrap once, but the pieces didn’t stay in one place for long. In fact, bits of the game board could be found throughout the house right up until the day we moved out of that house.
Because we most often landed on one of the same two games, my dad and two older brothers eventually got bored and started to create their own sub-set of rules and objectives. It drove my mom crazy, because it complicated the light-hearted fun she was trying weave into our family life. Knowing it was a small act of mutiny, made it even more appealing to my brothers and dad.
Because of the big age gap between me and my oldest brother, and the escalating rebellion against the rules of the games we played, this phase didn’t last long. I loved it while it lasted though. We were who we were, and we had a good time being who we were together.
Thirdly, I remember family prayer time. My dad experienced a bit of a personal revival in the 90’s, and he brought his revival home to our living room. Every Sunday afternoon we sat down together as a family and prayed. We shared prayer requests, prayed over them, but we also set aside time to wait on the Lord in silence. My dad called it, “Listening Prayer.” A chance to get quiet and listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
It didn’t always go as planned. My brothers tested the boundaries of the new tradition more than once. At least one of us kids fell asleep, if not more. And because it was one of the few times I had guaranteed air time in our family conversation, I tended to talk too long. Regardless of the bumps, we still prayed together.
We did this every Sunday from the time I was seven years old to the time I moved out of my parent’s house. My parents also got involved with other prayer ministries and invited us to participate. But the family prayer time shaped me and my faith more than any other prayer group. It taught me to go to prayer first, and to wait until I met with the Lord.
Today, looking at my own family, stuck at home together, I see a lot of similarities to my family growing up. There were four siblings. And now, we have four kids. Although the age gap is smaller, my oldest is still not interested in the games and activities that are age appropriate for our youngest, so finding a game for everyone is a challenge. If I remember correctly, the last time we tried to play a board game the two-year-old raided the board of all the pieces and transported them to an undisclosed location.
America’s Funniest Home Videos is no longer on the air to watch with my kids, but every now and then we stumble upon a movie that everyone enjoys. Those movie nights are fun, even if they’re few and far between. But movie nights aren’t the answer to quarantine with kids.
So what about family prayer time in quarantine? It’s something I’ve always wanted to start. I’ve just dragged my feet on it because I don’t want to spend the whole time managing a toddler. After all, we’ve consistently had at least one toddler in our midst for the last eight years.
So maybe our first attempts at family prayer time won’t last as long or be as ideal as what I remember growing up. It may take a few times for everyone to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. But it’s probably exactly what we need. To go before the Father together with our hearts, our concerns, and our fears. And to wait, until we meet with the Lord.
It seems like now more than ever I need to instill in my children the means to develop their own faith. Their lives are just as upended as mine, and I know the older ones have been rocked by the instability of the situation. What better answer could I give them when they feel of instable than the answer of Jesus, the Rock of our salvation?
We’ve spent time on and off learning scripture together. We often sing and dance along with the worship music together. I think it’s time we started praying together too.
I remember our pizza boxes and America’s Funniest Home Videos. I loved our game nights. But I was shaped by our family prayer time. I hope my kids are shaped by it too.