I found this essay among my dad’s papers.
ON FAMILY FUN
January 6, 1981
Who in the name of all that is sweet and holy ever said that families should stick together in order to have fun? I have a profound distrust for anyone espousing such a philosophy. Over the years, I have discovered that sanity for me lies in avoiding “family fun” like the plague.
Occasionally, I stray though. Last summer, a friend and I thought we would try the super father role, a mental derangement of which we all paid dearly, fathers and children alike. For three days and two nights, we stayed on a small Mississippi sandbar with six small, screaming, and semi-delirious children, seven million mosquitoes of indeterminate age, and the filthiest, smelliest scum the Mighty Mississippi could offer us for water. By the end of this nightmare, neither of us could tolerate children any[more], nor, for that matter, were we too crazy about each other. This winter holds no terror for me. I laugh at twenty inch blizzards, and I scoff at sub-zero weather because I know in my heart that nothing could possibly be worse than a child-and-mosquito-infested sandbar!
My wife not only believes in “family fun” more than I do but she practices it often. It is presumably for this reason that she smokes God knows how many cigarettes a day, has stomach cramps, and has a little twitch beneath her left eye. She will periodically gather all our children into the kitchen and tell them they are going to have “fun” cooking something. Our teenaged girl invariably mixes the wrong ingredients, then spills it all onto the floor; our nine-year-old boy sticks his face as closely as possible to his mother’s Gallic countenance and talks nonstop; and our seven-year-old girl just manages to be underfoot. After about a half hour of this “fun,” my dear, gentle wife will invariably snap and scream some horrible epithets at the children wihci [sic] would destroy any normal psyche but, strangely enough, never seems to significantly damage their relationship with her. She always insists afterwards, long afterwards, that it was worth it.
Recently, “family fun” unobtrusively insinuated itself into our home once again like a fog in the night, this time in the guise of apparently harmless games called “Scrabble” and “Uno.” At first, other family members played the game, but I, not trusting such things, gave it a miss. Unfortunately, I weakened and was soon seated around the table with everyone else. I even smiled a little—but not for long.
Tonight was surely one of the most harrowing examples of all this I’ve experienced in recent years. Our teenager took forever keeping score; our little one kept showing all her cards and nearly drove me crazy with her creative method of dealing cards; and our freckle-faced boy giggled until both my wife and I were on the raw edge of hysteria. I am still trembling as I write this, and I doubt that anything on God’s sweet earth will induce me to participate in such “fun” again.
[June 25, 2013]
image: “On Family Fun” by Tom Wolfe, pages 1 and 2