Ask and ye shall receive..
The rules of family night are simple and clear; pick a movie, pile every pillow and blanket onto the living room floor, turn all the lights off and have dinner either ordered for pick up or delivered. Kick back, eat until you burp, and laugh until soda shoots out of your nose. There are no friends, no phones, no appointments – no exceptions.
They’re really very simple rules. As the kids have gotten older, the rules have been flexed more than I’d like, what with them more interested government approved rescue missions via Xbox with their friends than they were hanging out with their mom.
On one particular Friday, after a hard week filled with too much chaos, drama, and stress, I got us home, had the dinner spread out, and settled back for what should have been a good ole family night of fun.
Now, because I’ve been getting a little lax on the whole “no friends, no phones” section the problem has become that when attempting to pull the reigns back in, I’m met with resistance.
As my life is irony in its purest form, all three cell phones and the house line rang. The computer rebooted itself to install new updates and the movie we had rented had a scratch in the disc and paused halfway through. Both boys used that opportunity to pull out iPods and cell phones to play.
I lost it in the most undignified manner. Dominic’s huffing and puffing became too much to bear, and he and Justin both were invited to set their electronic devices on the counter and just watch whatever movie I put on when I got back.
I needed to escape, a moment to myself. I headed for the shower where I started making lists. I needed to apologize to the boys for storming out and needed to make sure whatever food hadn’t been eaten was put away properly before the dogs tried to snag it off of the counter. A hard crack of thunder sounded and I remembered that the thunderstorm was quickly turning into a monsoon meaning when done with my shower I needed to get the candles and…
If you have never tried to exit a shower, in complete and total darkness, and not just trying to exit the shower, but trying to navigate three dogs afraid of thunder and darkness.
Coconut conditioner running down my face, I grabbed the first outfit I could find, and felt my way toward the living room. It would seem that my request to the universe for quiet and emotional peace had been granted. Ask and you shall receive.
A quick look outside confirmed that it was our neighborhood that was pitch black, and not just that always insane fear of forgetting to pay the electric bill. We opened the windows, because of course with no electricity there is no air… and it was summer in Arizona.
Dominic had at some point fallen asleep, and was snoring soundly from the couch. Justin had questions that only an 11-year-old ever seems to ever voice aloud: What happens if the lightening hits our house? What happens if the thunder is so loud it breaks a window? What if the monsoon turns into a hurricane? How long does the power usually stay off? What happens if the power never comes back on?
As much as I love the serenity that fills a house with zero electricity flowing through it, that very serenity makes it difficult to search for matches.
While searching for matches, I learned the following: Dominic can sleep through ANYthing… barking dogs, crashing thunder, cursing moms with stubbed toes, nothing disturbed him. Justin thinks that if we just open the fridge, we can use the light inside to look for the matches. Dominic has at some point begun the practice of lighting matches after his trips to the restroom, thus, no more matches. The dogs bark, but three seconds in the rain and they’re whimpering at the edge of the doorway. In the end, I was declared a genius for finding (remembering about) the long BBQ matches in the pantry.
Sitting on the floor watching the lightening show, Justin and I sat and talked in the dark for almost two hours. We talked about everything from apples to zombies and the dangers and wonders of both. When the electricity was restored, all the phones and hand held devices had completely died; the dogs had worn themselves out, and Justin and I had agreed to disagree that a war between rabid clowns and psycho mimes would be a tie. (I still believe that mimes are sneaky; it’s always the quiet ones you gotta watch out for.)
In the end, Dominic woke up just as the electricity came back on and, in a move usually reserved for sappy movies, we turned off all the lights, shut down the TV and sat, surrounded by the scent of the cinnamon pumpkin candle, talking until we all passed out from exhaustion.
The moral of this story: I wanted a night of no phones, no outside intrusion, and I got it. It was one family night out of hundreds that I will remember and cherish forever. Very real quality time, with my kids and a very real need to distrust wild rabid clowns.
Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is going back to college before the end of the year.