This past weekend was our Family Birthday, where our traditional celebration consists of bowling and a cake complete with candles and singing (“Happy Family Birthday to us . . . “). Family Birthday of course is our wedding anniversary, which is normally celebrated by getting away from the children to remember why we got married in the first place. We generally do a little of that, too, but this year, the second year of the Eternal Infancy of my last-born, it’s no-go yet again.
Bowling with four children under eight is a sticky situation, it requires a lot of wrangling and damage control and an inane amount of cheering for any single downed pin. It requires that you keep up the child’s enthusiasm for the whole 2 minutes it takes to get a ball pushed by a pre-schooler or toddler actually down to the pins. And thank heaven for bumpers.
The purpose of all this is to make magical childhood memories which will bring us closer as a family, but more importantly, overshadow the multitude of unpleasant memories we have created for them throughout the year, so that as adults, they will reminisce about those wonderful holiday meals and half-birthday cakes and camping trips to the point they will blank on every mundane, grumpy-mommy day in between.
This year we had some extended family with us, which I felt added to the festivity and the “magical memory” factor. Lots of joyous cheering characterized the first part of the game and fabulous childhood memories were being made left and right.
Then, as the final scores began to loom closer, my eight-year old son decided family unity was overrated. He was out to win, and he was committed to verbally taking down anyone who threatened his winning title.
Of course, his competition was the remaining players on the bumper team, which consisted of a six (sister and greatest rival), two threes, and an 18-month old. I was irritated by the absurdity of this boy wanting to competitively squash tiny children, I embarrassed by the gross selfishness of his cheering, “I hope you get zero pins!” and his angry stomping when anyone else succeeded. But mainly, I was cross because he was attempting to thwart the magical memories that, dangit, were going to be had here.
I handled it poorly. I dragged him aside and threatened and scolded, and shortly thereafter when he finally did win, I was aloof. Then he was hurt, and I smugly explained in very grown-up and boring terms how this is why you want people to be happy for you and therefore you should cheer on others because we love our family, etc. Then I realized that I was being immature and reactionary and congratulated him.
At the day’s end, I was forced to slightly spin the events to ensure the proper, positive memories were recounted and reinforced into the neuropathways which lead to the “happy childhood” part of the brain.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to see if it worked. (Will blogs still exist in 2038?)