When Jack, our youngest, was born in 1998, I turned to Al and said, "Say this to yourself a few times...Multari, party of five? Multari, party of five?" It was more than a bit surreal to think that two college kids who just had the hots for each other had morphed into this cultural paradigm called a nuclear family. We slipped easily enough into the many home based patterns that would come to define us as a family -- waiting for the kids to climb into bed with us on Saturday mornings, family dinners almost every night of the week, bedtime stories complete with individual character vocalizations, watching movies with a big bowl of stovetop popcorn with real butter. But with my transition from career professional to stay-at-home mom, I was desperate to find activities that would get us out of the house and break up the routine. I quickly learned that it is no simple task to identify that which will entertain 5 people of varying ages, interests and attention spans without breaking the bank or exhausting any one's patience. Dining out while trying to satisfy and contain three kids in an unfamiliar environment other than McDonald's, was usually a disaster. We went out for Chinese one Friday evening, in an effort to give me a night away from the kitchen. As Al attempted to hold a conversation with Emily about 3rd grade, I was fishing Jack and his place mat out of the koi pond. I left the restaurant without having eaten, and drove Jack around in circles in the parking lot until everyone else had finished.
We had better luck at the movie theater where we could usually count on the latest Disney or Dreamworks film to offer something for each of us. (When we saw "Shrek", no one in the theater laughed louder or longer than Al!) As the kids got older, Emily became less interested in the kiddy fare and we ventured into live action comedy. We quickly discovered that most "family" comedies are designed to make the kids laugh and the parents pay. We tried several of the big action thrillers but most were too violent or too creepy, especially for Jack. At last, we discovered the inspirational sports genre, such as "Remember the Titans", which seemed to offer something for all of us. Alas, our success was short-lived as we entered a new phase in which the challenge was not to find a movie that everyone would enjoy but that Emily did not want to be seen with us at all.
While it is a natural and expected development that a teenager defines herself independently of her family, we missed Emily. We continued to invite her to join us wherever we went, but her acceptances grew fewer and farther between. Occasionally we could get her to a bowling alley or a new restaurant, but only if there was nothing better to do and absolutely nothing on TV. It seemed somehow ironic that we had finally arrived at a time and place where this broad range of options was truly open to us but dissension in the ranks still kept us at home.
Recently, all five of us went to "Cirque du Soleil" at the Santa Monica Pier. It was a fabulous show and the kids were literally on the edge of their seats in amazement. It truly was one of the highlights of our Christmas season. At $100 per ticket, however, we will not be making a habit of such costly amusement. So, I will continue my quest for the elusive, equally appealing, affordable entertainment venue. In the meantime, if you are looking for us, “Multari, party of five”, check our home first.