Family Fun – Mother Fran Style
In previous posts I have written about being raised in a household with 8 siblings and amazing parents. My friend likes to joke that we were like the Brady Bunch. My parents were raised during the depression and nothing was wasted or squandered. There was never an excess of income in my house, but there was never a shortage of fun either. My parents were raising 9 kids on 1 income and making ends meet the best they could. We didn’t have play dates, fancy vacations, summer camp or ski trips. Honestly I don’t even remember ever having a friend stay over night.
What we did have, was plenty of family time as well as unstructured time to play. We had camping vacations with a trailer and a tent. There were too many of us to sleep in the camper so my older brothers stayed in the tent. Sometimes we joined a camping group and other times we went on our own. This was real camping – not glamping! Campfires, smores, swimming, camp songs. You get the gist. All of our meals were cooked over the fire or on a camp stove. I remember sitting in the camper at night playing cards or games with my family.
I remember day trips to NY State Parks which typically included hiking, swimming and a picnic lunch. 5 hour car rides where we brought our own bagels with cream cheese and hard-boiled eggs or tuna sandwiches. We would run around the picnic area to blow off steam before piling back into the car for more driving. At that time rest areas along the highways did not have fast food restaurants but picnic tables and bathrooms.
Child #7 remembers that one summer we had problems with the water in our house and my parents would take us to a local State Park every day to go swimming, use the showers and bottle up water to take home. When I asked Mother Fran about this she chuckled and said the guy at the guard station stopped charging us thinking how great my parents were for taking their kids to the playground every day! I just remember the 5 gallon buckets of water sloshing around in the car.
Piling into the car for a day at the beach. Sand castles, sun tanning, swimming, riding the waves, burying each other in the sand. Child #3 remembers a day at the beach where my parents packed hot dogs and sauerkraut in one jug and whiskey sours in another for the adults. Mother Fran remembers this day as well, she says it was a celebration for my dad’s promotion at work.
We used to pile as many people into the car as possible to go to the drive-in theatre. Being one of the youngest and smallest, I often ended up on the floor underneath the feet of the bigger kids. I don’t remember if this was to sneak in (paying by person) or simply to make room for more people. We would bring homemade popcorn from home in brown paper bags to snack on. I’m quite sure we never visited the concession stand!
I remember doing fun stuff with my dad like going for a ride in the woods. He would have us collect rocks and apples and tap trees for syrup. Once home we would make gallon after gallon of apple cider, build rock walls and make maple syrup. I also remember going with him to pick up Christmas trees that were on the curb for the trash. We would take them home and throw them in the wood chipper to make our own mulch for the gardens.
The closet in the family room was always full of games, books and cards. We all remember playing card games like Flinch, Poker, Michigan Rummy, and Blitz. We gambled with nickels, dimes and quarters. Playing games continues to be a source of family fun and Mother Fran is still not only an active participant but an instigator!
We had outdoor yard games including a basketball hoop, horseshoes, volleyball and a badminton net. The window of the garage had a metal cage over it to keep our wild shots from breaking the glass. Child #1 recalls that when she was young our family had one of the first pools in the neighborhood. She also says my dad would make an ice skating rink in the yard for the kids to use in the winter.
I remember my older siblings coming home for a weekend and entertaining us younger kids. Brother #1 brought us the video game Space Invaders and a tiny portable television to play it on. Sister #2 brought us home a bunny rabbit – I am sure that went over well with my parents. We had a really tall white birch tree in the backyard and I would climb it and wait for the visiting sibling to appear!
My dad would give helpful advice to the child who complained of being bored – “go play in traffic and don’t come home until the street lights come on”. He would also send us to the park or outside and whistle really loud when it was time to come home for dinner.
My parents raised 9 pretty well-adjusted kids and not one of was ever considered spoiled.
I see kids in the store whining and crying for their parents to buy them stuff. I hear parents in debt up to their eyeballs but using the charge card to buy expensive toys, video games, iphones for their kids. Have times changed that much that kids needs expensive gadgets to play with to be entertained? Maybe I am feeling nostalgic for game night sitting around the dining room table with a stack of coins in front me trying to remember if a straight beats a flush.
But seriously I think we need to STOP the madness. Adults can take charge of their children’s entertainment in a way that doesn’t break the bank. Kids should be allowed and encouraged to entertain themselves. Family time can be centered around inexpensive fun things – Just ask Mother Fran!
Let me know in the comment section what your family did for inexpensive FUN!
Maybe, just maybe when kids are allowed to entertain themselves and parents choose affordable, fun activities to do as a family – kids will mature into adults that will continue to choose low-cost engaging, fun things to do with their own kids. Maybe, just maybe the next generation won’t be saddled with debt from showering their own kids (and themselves) with expensive toys instead of good old fashioned FUN.
Showing our children love does not need to cost a dime. Showing our children love does cost our time.
I think I will go skip some rocks or something…