We'd all been feeling a bit out of sorts that day, but it was Addie, our 10-year-old daughter, who put it into words. "I love Friday nights. I really like Saturdays. But I don't like Sunday afternoons," she sighed. We all knew precisely what she meant: that Sunday feeling.
Unless we had a specific plan for our Sundays, those long afternoons tended to drift by in a cloud of melancholy. Addie and her 13-year-old brother, Phinny, usually had homework, and my husband, Mark, and I needed to do chores and plan for the work week ahead. Rather than being a time for family and rest, the day had become a dreary passage from the frivolous freedom of Saturday to the dreaded alarm-clock blare of Monday morning.
"What do you think would help make Sundays better?" I asked Addie. Our family was eating leftover Chinese food. It was, of course, a Sunday.
She shrugged. "I don't know. Something fun."
"You mean make Sundays into Fundays?" suggested Mark, a hopeless punster.
We laughed, a sign we were on to something. By the meal's end, we had decided that, on the following Sunday, if we had all finished our homework and chores by 4:30 p.m., we would dedicate the evening to some sort of fun activity.
Next I consulted with two other neighborhood moms who were familiar with that Sunday feeling.
Together we planned a cooking competition inspired by the TV show Chopped. Sunday at five, everyone gathered in my family's kitchen, and we divvied up the families among three teams. Each got a basket of ingredients that included ground turkey and pasta. Using those ingredients, as well as anything else they could find in the kitchen, the teams had 30 minutes to make a main course.
The next half hour was a madcap scramble of chopping, boiling, and culinary improvising. We also did far more laughing than we had in a month of Sundays. In fact, when the time was up, not only had we created a meal of noodle soup, turkey pot pie, and a dubious pile of fried radish rounds, we had also turned that Sunday evening into something wonderful.
"Can we do this again next week?" Addie asked.
"Not exactly this," I said, scanning the mess in the kitchen that everyone would soon help clean up. "But something."
That "something" turned out to be a spaghetti dinner hosted by one of the other families. A few weeks later, friends threw a make-your-own-sundae Sunday party. Before long, our neighborhood had caught the Funday spirit, and a short Sunday event, usually over by 7 p.m., had become the norm. In nice weather, we might play parents-versus-kids kickball or have pizza delivered to the nearby park. On a winter night, we gathered for board games and cocoa.
The whole day felt better when it held the promise of an evening with friends. It also kept us from procrastinating on homework and chores. Now it's the rare Sunday when we don't have some kind of plan -- even if it's just a game of cards after dinner.
Somehow, the mindful marking of a week's end ensures a good start to the one ahead.
Originally published in the February 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.