We Nazarians have a tradition. At the end of the week, if I’m not traveling, if Emily isn’t working, and if the entropy that is the lives of four tween/teens allows it; we all do something together on a Friday night – this is affectionately known as Family Fun Friday, or FFF for short.
We manage to pull this off about one out of every four weeks.
When the kids were younger, this might have been as simple as four Happy Meals and a little playtime at one of the “Lego Tables” available at the local McDonalds. In the winter, once they were old enough, bowling has filled one Friday a year, but our children (like most) are not big fans of doing the same things twice in a row.
After a few years of this, my wife and I realized that Family Fun Friday should actually include fun for us too. You get to a point as your children age when, as adults, “family fun” needs to be more than just happy children.
Take my word for it, this is important!
As our lives have increased in complexity, so too have all of our tastes have become more sophisticated. This makes finding a Family Fun Friday activity that suits one teenage girl, her three younger brothers and two forty-something parents all the more difficult.
Last week was one of those weeks when the familial planets aligned and a FFF looked possible. As we weighed our options, our daughter Charlotte raised an idea that had been used before, but she added a little twist. She suggested that we all head to the mall and that the four kids pair-up into two teams of two, to compete in a mall scavenger hunt. While this was going on, Emily and I would enjoy adult beverages at one of the mall restaurants where one normally waits more than an hour for a table on a Friday night.
As I wrapped up my workday, I had to give full credit to Charlotte for coming up with something we would all enjoy.
I scanned the interwebs looking for a suitable scavenger hunt list that would both amuse and challenge my precocious children. After just a bit of searching I found the perfect thing and it required only a little editing.
Unlike previous scavenger hunts where they had to collect actual objects, this hunt would include their insatiable need to be connected to their “devices.” I had found a list of challenges and acts they would need to record with photos and videos.
I downloaded the list and opened it in MS Word to edit it. I made some changes based on my knowledge of both the mall and our children. I printed two copies, snapped them onto two clipboards, told the children to grab their devices and get in the car.
Halfway to the mall, we handed the two teams (Charlotte & Oliver vs. Lewis & Lawrence) the clipboards and issued some rules.
- They would have exactly 90 minutes to complete the challenge
- There would be penalties for showing up late
- There would be even greater penalties for showing up early
- There should be a fairly even participation by both team members in all the pictures and videos
- Have fun and no fighting (it couldn’t hurt to ask, right?)
At exactly 5:30, we walked up to the main entrance of the mall and the children ran off. Emily and I made a 90-degree turn and entered Champp’s Americana. We quickly secured an outdoor table, ordered two drinks and something they call the “Mile-High Nachos.”
As we sipped our libations and talked about things that parents talk about when their children are absent, the kids tore up the mall. Emily and I had been running around like "headless chickens" for the previous week and we really needed some "couple time." This did the trick.
Exactly ninety minutes later, the four of them returned, devices in hand.
Here's the takeaway - it is okay to take care of yourself while taking care of your family. Our kids thrive on independence, but at the same time they had to work together to achieve a goal. Emily and I got some needed and deserved grown up time, which ultimately serves our children as well. When they returned we had a fun time reviewing the results over burgers and fries. All too often parents loose sight of their own needs in the face of what their children need. Don't fall for it - everybody needs happy time and if you're clever you can pull it off all at once.
Not only did everyone go home happy, we took four kids to the mall for 90 minutes and didn't have to buy anything! That's a win worth scavenging for any day of the week..
When all the results were totaled up, the team of Charlotte and Oliver won by 50 points. Their prize was a drink of their choice the next morning at Dunkin' Donuts. Again, I got off cheap. At the bottom of the page is a link to the list you can download edit and use for yourself.
I could have posted all the results, but that would take way too much time and to be honest it wouldn't be all that interesting. Instead I offer you the following highlights:
Take a picture trying on an orange necktie - 5 Points for both teams!
Photo of either team member in a bathroom - 10 Points for team Lewis & Lawrence
Photo of strangers spelling out YMCA - 25 Points for team Charlotte & Oliver
Charlotte & Oliver pose as the victors (Lawrence with the photobomb)