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You'll Never Guess What Brought My Kids Together

If you grew up with siblings, you know—family dynamics aren't always easily defined by gender or by age. Brothers and sisters will argue, whine, pinch each other and stick their tongues out. They just will. You could have a house full of girls or nicely spaced boy/girl combos two-and-a-half years apart, and you still can't anticipate how your children will interact with each other. So when we had a boy first, then a girl—spaced over four years—the dynamics of their relationship weren't always easy to predict. But there's one thing we did that bridged the gap through the years and still works today.

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We played board games.

It seems like my kids have always loved board games. But games my son was able to play at the age of 6 were too advanced for his 2-year-old sister, so most were played while she was otherwise occupied. But she was fascinated with the boards, colorful cards, dice and playing pieces—and she wanted in. So I started trying to figure out how to include both kids in the game and still make it fun. This took some creativity (and a lot of patience) on everyone's part.

It's a secret win for me to see (my kids) conspiring against me across the game board, sporting big smiles and laughing.

At first, it was hard for my son to "let go" of the rules a wee bit so that his sister could enjoy the game, too. Since we're cut from the same cloth, I totally understood—because rules. I remember more than one game of Monopoly Junior with my son and me playing and my daughter just driving her car game piece around and around the board. The first few times we tried to play Go Fish resulted in several bent cards and a very frustrated older brother who didn't think it was OK for his sister to see all of his cards. A few games later he realized that when you're 2 years old, you can see everyone's cards and still not win a card game. Obviously he was now on board.

The thing I love about board games is that everyone can show off their particular skills—and it levels the playing field a bit. My son is a good speller, which made him the perfect Scrabble teammate for my daughter when she was younger and just sounding out words. My daughter thinks fast on her feet, and she's a great partner in games like Pictionary and Memory. And pairing them up as a team against me? They always love that. It's a secret win for me to see them conspiring against me across the game board, sporting big smiles and laughing.

As my daughter got older, game time extended into a family affair, usually on Sunday nights. And while I remember one particularly stressful game of Pictionary (played on boy vs. girl teams) we had found our family time groove. We played Yahtzee, Memory, Uno, Jenga, Scrabble, Sorry, Apples to Apples, Candyland (not a personal fave, btw) and Clue. And believe me, when you play Clue with tweens, the whole "Colonel Mustard did it in the library with a lead pipe" thing becomes beyond hysterical. Seriously.

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When my kids headed into their teens, family game night took on an increased importance to all four of us. Schedules became tighter, homework loads heavier and family time was at more of a premium. Sunday nights became the time everyone in the house dreaded: the gateway to Monday morning. By designating Sunday night as a game night, even for just an hour, it gave the four of us a reprieve from the Sunday blues.

My kids have long since graduated beyond games of Memory and Candyland. But give us a good game of Scrabble, Yahtzee, Uno or the occasional game of Monopoly and we're bonded back together again.

Image via Twenty20/nikmock

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