In this post from last year, I talked about how it is incumbent upon parents to “create special”, to be aware of when certain spontaneous decisions can create significant joy and memories for our kids. About a year ago, my daughter asked if we could stop and get a 15-minute chair massage while we were at the mall. We’d passed those massage chairs dozens of times before, but had never stopped, as I typically think those things are a waste of money. This time, however, it was just the two of us, so we stopped and got massages. And, boy, I’m glad we did. She held my hand and we oooh-ed and aaaah-ed and laughed the entire time. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget those smiles and laughter; I can still picture it vividly.
This past weekend, our city had gotten a decent little snow and the kids had just gotten in from playing outside in it for a bit. While they were warming up and sipping hot chocolate, we decided to watch the move Lone Survivor. I’d seen it before, but wanted to watch it again since I’d just finished the book. Also, my boys had been begging me to watch it, and I figured they could handle it at this point. When they saw the SEALs packing their gear for the mission, my boys got out all of their Nerf dart guns and ammo to organize it just like the SEALs did. And since Christmas just passed, they have a lot of that stuff.
Once we finished the movie, they were ready to do something active, and I was too. With temperatures moving down into the teens, I knew we wouldn’t be outside for long. So, it was time for an inside game that would keep our attention. For the last several months, I’ve been reading a ton about the SEALs and their activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The nature of the War on Terror, especially in Iraq, required the SEALs to go door to door to clear out the enemy, who simply hid among the general civilian population. This required small teams to enter houses, move from room to room, and find any enemy fighters and/or weapons. They often had no idea what lay behind that door they were opening (or blowing open) or that corner they were turning.
So, we decided to put our Nerf guns to use. We split up into two teams, the SEALs and the terrorists. The terrorists would hide throughout the house, either staying together or splitting up, and the SEALs would have to “clear” the house, which meant they had to kill or capture all the terrorists in the house and make sure each room was secure. Whoever was left standing at the end was the winner.
When I suggested the game, you’d have thought I told them they’d just won a million dollars. They immediately argued over who got which weapons, who would be teammates, and who would start out as SEALs. The best part: I played as well. We each got guns, plenty of ammo, and grenades, then set some ground rules:
- The SEALs start in the basement and count to 100, giving the terrorists time to hide and set their defense.
- Getting hit in the chest, stomach, head, or back meant you were dead. Getting hit in a limb meant only loss of the limb.
- Grenades would explode after five seconds, which had to be counted out loud, and killed anyone within a body length.
- After each round, we flipped which team was SEALs and which was terrorists
- After that, we switched up the teams.
There was plenty of arguing over whether and where people got hit with the bullets, and how close they were to the grenade when it exploded, but, man, did we have fun. In fact, it was much fun that my wife joined in after the first couple of rounds. The kids were very creative in planning their defenses and their attacks (one team quietly exited the basement door, tromped through the snow, and entered through the front door instead of coming up from the basement). They had to solve problems. They had to engage their minds. They had to work under pressure. They had to work together. They had to sacrifice for their teammates. They had to follow the plan. They had to have heightened awareness. They had to keep calm and quiet.
In short, there was plenty that it helped them learn and develop. And it gave them a sense (albeit very small) of what our men and women in the military deal with overseas. But, most importantly, they had loads of fun with Mom, Dad, and each other. We played for a solid two hours, and they begged to play it again. As most of you know, I have three boys, but you’re crazy if you think my daughter didn’t love this game.
Our routines are important. They give us consistency, efficiency, and stability, which are important for both parents and kids. However, it’s the spontaneous breaks from our routines that create the special moments. With some thought and creativity, we can create special in our families. This is the man’s life.
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