“A family that plays together stays together.”
I thought of that last week when I looked out the kitchen window and saw our boat leaving the neighborhood behind someone else’s truck. I heard the squeak· squeak·squeak that she always makes when she bounces around the curve. But this time, instead of meaning a play day on the lake for the Green family, the squeak·squeak· squeak was her final farewell. I tried to swallow the knot in my throat while I ran to the front window to wave goodbye with gratitude for twelve years of great memories.
I’ve heard that the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell it. My happiest days were every time we went to the lake because Sunbird kept “play” a main ingredient of summertime.
Playing is an important ingredient for healthy families. Unfortunately, play is often squeezed out by everything else that fills up a family’s schedule. By the end of a hectic day, no one feels like playing.
It takes intentionality and effort to play. But it’s worth it.
Here are four benefits our family enjoyed with a day on the lake. It’s the same four reasons your family needs to play together (and it’s why our family will keep playing)…
1. SHARED MEMORIES – Our unique experiences on the lake knit our family together with special memories. Just last week two of our boys pulled out pictures to tell boating stories to a friend at the supper table. The shared memories give our family something to celebrate.
2. LAUGHTER – Nothing beats a good laugh. Laughter strengthens relationships, relieves stress and helps defuse conflict (Laughter is good medicine). With four teenagers, we had plenty of stress and conflict, so we needed high doses of laughter whenever possible.
The boat gave us plenty of chances to laugh–the perfect wipe-out, a vicious tube war or the simple pleasure of watching a friend try to climb up on a tube. Find ways for the family to play that bring laughter. (We recently eliminated a board game that brought more tension than fun, so not all “play” is equal.)
3. BOUNDARIES – Sunbird enticed our family out to the middle of lakes where there were no computers, Xbox, TV, movies or cell phone coverage. When the Green family went boating, we unplugged for the day.
You don’t have to be in the middle of the lake to accomplish that. Playing provides boundaries to keep the world out while the family connects.
4. FRIEND TIME – It’s takes effort to interact with kids the older they get, much less with their friends. But Sunbird, she gave us the perfect excuse to invite friends to play with our family. By the end of a day on the lake together, we all knew each other pretty well—some friends may have gotten to know the Greens better than they wanted (it can get pretty cozy with 8 people sharing a boat for 8 hours). Finding ways to play are a good excuse to invite friends into the family.
Now Sunbird is gone. But play is here to stay in our family. You can tell that is true by the ping-pong table in the living room (so much for home decor) or the “Settlers of Catan” box in the corner of the kitchen.
There are lots of ways to play together to create memories, laugh a little, turn off distractions and invite friends into the family fun.So whether it’s board games, throwing a frisbee, a card game or a day on the lake, find ways to play together.
It doesn’t take a boat or even a ping-pong table in the living room. But it does take intentionality.
Our culture teaches us–even pressures us–to outsource play to youth groups, summer camps or coaches and teammates. Those things are fine, as long as there’s still time for the family to play together.
I don’t want to be left on the sidelines while everyone else enjoys playing with my kids.
“Let’s play!” That may be the best thing you say all summer.
What does your family like to play?