Or Why I’d Rather A Have A Root Canal Than Hang With The Family

Why? Why? WHY? Will Good Enough Mother ever learn?

I always go into long holiday weekends with my Norman Rockwell glasses firmly pressed against my nose, you know the ones with the rose tinted lenses? You probably have a pair too.  It’s those very glasses that trick you into thinking that somehow your family will look like one of those portraits; the easy conversation around the dinner table followed by game night in front of a roaring fire culminating in a big group hug, the sounds of “I love you” punctuating the crisp air. Uh, yeah.

So on Sunday, I made a proclamation, we were going to have family movie night. That’s right. The dad, the mom the 14-year-old daughter and the 12-year-old son, even the yellow lab and black cat were going to all sit in front of the TV and watch a movie and everyone was going to enjoy themselves. DAMMIT!

There are several things wrong with this scenario, which I’m sure you, reading this on your laptop, can see more clearly than I could being smack dab in the middle of it. The evening started with daddy making a lovely Caesar salad with croutons for everyone, except not everyone wanted a lovely Caesar salad with croutons. “I didn’t ask for that,” wailed the boy, confusing our kitchen with the diner down the street.  That prompted my first yelling of the evening. “Well, that’s what’s for dinner so you’ll eat it!” The girl, who’s less prone to complaining and seeing the lack of success her brother had, shrugged her shoulders, grabbed her bowl and headed to the living room.

Point of reference. Casey is 14. Where do 14-year-old girls spend all their time? In their rooms. Alone. So I had to basically perform a surgical extraction to even get her OUT of her cave in order to interact with the rest of the family. That should tell you everything you need to know about the kind of mood she was in.

Then the real fun started. Before butts were even settled in the sofa, the arguing started. Cole refused to sit on the sofa, instead opting to wheel around the hard wood floors on his desk chair, salad bowl balancing precariously on his lap. That of course, lit the teeny-tiny fuse on daddy who yelled “COLE BE STILL!” Getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to a peace deal would probably be easier. While Cole was burning the calories faster than he was taking them in on the living room racetrack, Casey sat sullenly on the end of the sofa.

“Casey what’s the matter?” If you have ever asked a teenage girl that question you know the answer. Nothing. Everything. And the fact that she would rather be kicked in the butt with a frozen boot than be anywhere NEAR her family. Casey responded with a shrug without even looking up. GRRR..

Of course, all of this was happening amid the drama of Cole trying to hook up the Netflix box, holding the wires in both hands and doing his best impersonation of Jeff Gordon at NASCAR. Salad is flying out of all of our mouths because everyone is shouting instructions except for Casey, who by this time, had curled up on the end of the couch and gone to sleep.

There is such a thing as too many choices and if you have one of these Netflix subscriptions, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Do we choose from TV shows? Classic movies? Comedies? Horror (absolutely NOT) and on it goes, arguing about everything, settling on nothing.

“THAT’S IT – CASEY GO!” I ordered her upstairs because the last thing I wanted to look at was her with that pained look on her face (yes, she had that look while she was sleeping, which means she wasn’t really sleeping but just trying to get out of the “family fun night”). Cole, pissed because we failed to give him his props for untangling the wires and hooking up the movie box, grabbed his sliding chair and headed upstairs too. That left Buff and me. At least it would be easier to agree on something to watch. We settled on “The Five Heartbeats” a corny movie we have seen literally 34 times before.

That’s all I remember before waking up in the living room. At 9:30pm. Turns out my snoring drove Buff to his office, the kids were both behind closed doors, leaving just my loyal companion, Olivia and me. I turned off the TV, downed the end of my wine and headed upstairs to bed.

I’m not exactly sure what happened. No I take that back, I AM sure what happened. THAT was family fun night for us and looking back on it, even with all that, it was sort of fun. It was definitely funny!

But that is the reality of my family. We are not a Norman Rockwell painting and this thing called life, complete with it’s strife, doesn’t always wrap up nice and neatly and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Well, maybe two small changes; lower expectations and more wine.

What about you? Do you build up these big family events in your mind, only to have them not play out the way you thought? What do you do to keep that from happening? Please start sharing your stories…

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.


  1. Cynthia

    September 7, 2010 at 10:48 am

    One word – HILARIOUS !

    Rene – you should have a Reality Show – your life is so “funny” yet entertaining.

  2. Angela

    September 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Oh how I remember the “forced family nights”. By the end of the night, every was so agitated and angry– it tickled me too. Well Rene, cherish even those moments of frustration. Both our children are away at college, so it’s only me and the Mister left to carry on the tradition of “forced family nights”. Still agitated and angry, but still married.

  3. pattyrowland

    September 7, 2010 at 11:02 am

    gem – try again when the girl is 22 and the boy is 20! lol!!!! good luck!!!!!! :0)

  4. mommamia

    September 7, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Actually when my kids were still home we had movie night every Friday, with pizza and every one picked a movie and we basically had a moviethon. This started when they were young so when they were teens it wasn’t a big deal. Each week we would rotate whose movie we watched first.

    As they got older and started playing sports on Friday night or going to the games we moved it to Sunday afternoons until football season (of course). It wasn’t always a Norman Rockwell picture perfect moment or time, but we always were glad we did it afterward, even if we weren’t overly enthusiastic at the beginning of movie night.

    Now where my rose colored glasses always let me down is vacation. I love to sight see, hubby just wants to relax and the kids have zero interest in checking out and understanding why people visit various areas. This is where it gets hard,because I put my foot down and make them do a minimum of 1 day out sight seeing.

  5. DawnKA

    September 7, 2010 at 11:29 am

    LOL!!!!!!! Love the title of this post. I love spending time with my family although there are those moments when I have to interject with an assertive voice that we’re going to have a fun family day. It always work it’s way into being such a great time that we don’t want to end.

  6. David Freeman

    September 7, 2010 at 11:33 am

    This is certainly something we all experience. But as someone else mentioned, sometimes they start out tough, but you are usually happy you did it. I’m not sure where that disconnect is from beginning to end. But my wife has to drag me to do anything social, (cause I’m so beat from working or writing), but once I get there, I have a great time.
    As far as time with family, unless you start the tradition very early, I think those Norman Rockwell nights happen on their own. I also think part if it may be that the kids are just at ages where they re creating themselves and their own spaces. I don’t recall looking forward to these type of nights either. But I have memories of some great ones!

  7. Charlot

    September 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    One movie night with the family our 17 year-old fell asleep on the couch. When she woke up she wanted to know where the movie was and so we told her she slept through it. She yelled, “Why didn’t someone wake me up to tell me I was asleep!” and stormed off to her room…sigh…

  8. ruth

    September 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    when the kids started getting old enough for other interests, and not home for dinners, I made sure we were all together for breakfast. so we had one time the family was all together.

  9. Auntie Lisa

    September 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    If you want to get really radical, take your family on a dude ranch (aka guest ranch) vacation! I have been on EIGHT of them now, and yes, I have even seen teenagers having a good time with their parents! I have also heard kids say they liked it better than Disney World. Yes, you read that right…

    You get away from TVs, video games and cell phones. If you go, do it for a whole week, as it may take a day or two for the kids to admit they’re having fun. 🙂 I can give you some recommendations for ranches, if you like…

  10. Rene Syler

    September 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Hey Auntie Lisa, yes, pass them along!

  11. Wendy

    September 7, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    See, we don’t have that problem because it’s been established for years that Friday night is Family night.

    It’s a standing rule that we order pizza – pile every blanket and pillow we own on the living room floor, eat pizza and watch movies until we pass out. The movie part is the only real variable as we tend to save our favorite family show (Psych) until Friday nights and watch it – as a family trying to find the hidden pineapple each week. (We WILL win that trip to Hawaii, we WILL!!)

    It started when as a single mom and poorer than dirt it was the only real guaranteed fun I could afford for the boys (though back then it was a frozen box of Banquet chicken and fake mashed potatoes)… now that we’re just poor, we don’t know any different, and wouldn’t have Family night any other way.


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