We were never a big television family growing up. When I was a little girl I remember how on Friday nights our local television station would air Disney movies each week. It was always a really special treat. My Mama and I would eat dinner on a folding TV trays in the living room and watch whatever was being featured that week. We called it Family night, even though back then it was just the two of us. My favorite was Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, followed closely by Mary Poppins.
I was required to have bathed and finished homework before I was allowed to watch. This was pretty great motivation for me to get my homework done before the weekend even began! Bath time was a little more of a challenge for me though. One distinct childhood memory I have is of running to and from the bathroom dripping wet and wrapped hastily in a towel to finish my bath during commercial breaks. The trail of soggy footprints I left down the hallway that evening was just a small sign of how seriously I took my movie nights back then!
My kids don’t even know what commercials are these days.
We don’t have cable television at our house so most of what we watch is on Netflix or Disney Plus. One day we were watching a video of something on YouTube and a commercial came on. Noah started stressing out that the show was messed up. “Mama fix it,” he exclaimed, “something weird happened!” His confusion when I tried explaining commercials was pretty funny. Kids these days haha.
If you’ve been around this space long you probably already know our family schedule is pretty hectic. Paul’s shifts tend to vary from day to day and week to week. We have struggled over the past few years to find routines that we can consistently uphold as a family to create structure for the kids in a positive way. We don’t get to have regular family dinners together or consistent time together in the mornings before work/school.
Spending time together as a family is at the top of our priority list but sometimes finding that time that can be hard for us.
We work with what we can get. If Paul is home in the evenings, we do our best to always sit down for a family dinner together. If he is working overnight, we try to rally around the breakfast table together when he gets home in the morning before he heads upstairs for a day of recovery sleep. On days he is off, we try to squeeze in family adventures. Or we take turns spending quality one-on-one time with the boys separately. We have figured out ways to make it work for us. And we maximize what his schedule offers us to spend family time together.
Earlier this year Paul and I started getting more serious about ways to create some special rituals for our family. During one intense round of brainstorming, we came the idea of Friday Family Nights. We imagined these being something we could easily “age-up” as our kids get older and continue for years to come. Our family nights consist of ordering pizza, watching a movie, eating fancy dessert, trying to remember to take a family selfie, and a doing some kind of fun activity together.
We rotate who gets to be the “main chooser” for the evening. That person gets to pick the kind of pizza we order, what movie we watch, what special dessert we eat, and what fun activity we will do before bed. Occasionally Paul can’t make it due to his work schedules, we always try to make it special. And we’ve gotten pretty lucky that he has been able to join for more than he has missed since we started this earlier this summer. Last night he was home with us and it was his turn to be the main chooser.
Friday Family Nights have turned into a really special and important family ritual for us.
Favorite movies in no particular order:
(Remember my kiddos are 2 and 3 with limited attention spans)
- Rio 1 & 2
- Cars 1.2.3
- Toy Story 126.96.36.199
- Despicable Me 1.2.3
- Planes Fire & Rescue
- The Smurfs movie
- The Secret Life of Pets 1 & 2
- Monsters Inc
- The Grinch
- Finding Nemo and Dory
- The Lorax
Needless to say, Disney + has saved us some money this year. I’ve got so many of the scenes memorized word for word from watching some of these so many times. SO – if you have other “must see” movies, please send them our way! You can drop your family favorites in the comments section below (and thank you in advance!!).
Favorite pizza preferences vary by family member. Noah and I prefer the chicken pesto honey pizza with a thicker crust while Paul really likes thin crust best. Niko is pretty agreeable. And desserts is by far the most exciting part of the whole night. Noah’s absolute favorite is a dessert option treat I made up called candy shop. This is where I basically create a candy buffet with a variety of different candies for them to “shop” for. They each get a small bowl and reminders to only take enough that everyone can have some of each kind. And they go to town! I’m pretty sure sour gummy worms are topping the charts lately but I try to include all kinds of options.
Friday Family Nights activities are saved for before bedtime and are widely different depending on the “chooser.”
Niko and Noah’s favorite is to have a family dance party. This is where they submit song requests to me (the DJ) to play over our loud speaker as they run, hollering and dancing, in circles around our kitchen island. I particularly love when Paul is home for these. He is a hilarious and enthusiastic dancer which always gets me laughing. My favorite activity is hide-n-seek (I’ve LOVED this game since I was a kid and I’m always the best hider!). Paul always likes a good board game (me too!).
Here are a few of our favorites to play with the kids:
- My First Orchard by Haba
- Cootie by Hasbro (a favorite from my childhood)
- Animal upon Animal by Haba
- Monkey Around by Peaceable Kingdom
- Jenga by Hasbro
Our family nights have become cherished by all of us. We start looking forward to them early in the week, building anticipation by asking the “chooser” what they think they will want to do for the night. Noah has learned the days of the week so he can track how close we are to Friday on any given day. Paul has swapped shifts with co-workers in order to be able to join us when he might not have otherwise. Niko and I are happy to be along for the fun! I love the magic we can create together in rituals that make even the simplest things feel extraordinary.
Creating these memories together, celebrating family rituals we hope will last a lifetime, and basking in the gratitude and joy we feel spending time together are truly some of the best parts of this parenthood gig. Even though our lives sometimes feel uniquely different from others with the chaos and unpredictability of our schedule, family nights have helped keep us grounded and connected. We know it’s something we can always look forward to each week and it helps anchor us in this hectic amazing life of ours.
What kinds of family rituals do you have with your family?
What are your favorite memories of things like this from your childhood?
I’d love to hear – drop a comment below!