As I mentioned in my Balance post, I struggle with play. Interactive play, creative play, you name it. Unless it is coloring or reading books, I am reluctant to engage in play with the kiddos. Mainly, because I find it boring, and partly because, my creative juices are more geared towards Pinterest and redecorating – not having a puppet show. I really catch myself saying things like, “do I have to?” in my head when asked to play with my daughter. I usually say something like, “In a minute”, which so happens to be the longest minute ever since 5 hours have past and I never played with her. Clearly, she is not deprived of stimulation, but she is deprived of grown-up play, well, at least from her mommy. My husband seems to have no problem with this. Why is that? Is it because he is not thinking of the 3 loads of laundry that need to be folded, and dinner that needs to be made? He can just put on a tutu and a tiara and dance to classical music with my daughter in the living room and look like he is actually enjoying it. Damn, him.
Or, he can just lay on the bed and tackle the two of them and make them belly laugh and not worry about messing up the neatly displayed pillows…
To make myself feel like less of an ass, I searched for other mom’s struggling with playing with their kids. I did some research, since that is how I roll in the parenting arena, and found a fantastic article in the November issue of Parents Magazine, titled “Child’s Play (for grown-ups)” by Vicki Glembocki. She talks about the sheer fact that she had forgotten how to play. I mean it is not yesterday I was playing with Barbie’s, making my stuffed animals talk to “each others” as my daughter says. It is hard to get into their make-believe world, especially when you have a daughter who is a pro and knows EXACTLY what she wants the objects to do, and makes it very clear when you have gone astray from her reality. She is a feisty one, and if you don’t know what I am talking about, read this. She is also, a creative genius. I know, everyone thinks their child is a genius, but really, she is down right spectacular when it come to creative play, song writing, and making up stories. It is a joy to watch her in her creative element and I can’t help but think she will have a career in the arts. My son, well he just wants to be held, or for someone just to be next to him on the floor while he plays, which is great for when I need to fold laundry. He does unfold what I have folded about 10 times, and makes the process a lot longer, but I know he enjoys it, so I manage.
According to the article, you should “prioritize play”, “just say yes”, and “keep ’em guessing.” Stuart Brown, M.D, runs The National Institute for Play, who knew there was such a thing? He notes that “the very idea of moms and dads playing with their kids is a relatively recent concept.” During the 50’s-70’s, families were often larger, creating built-in playmates and kids were expected to entertain themselves, kind of like the French parenting phenomenon (Bringing up Bebe is on my list of books to read). To improve your play relationship, Dr. Brown suggests that you “set aside 20 minutes a day to play with your kids after work, and before the start of your evening routine.” This will work great for hubby, but not so great for me. Myself, I will set aside time in the afternoon, before nap routines, to play with them. As of today, I am making a vow to make playing with my son and daughter a priority. Improve, by do-ing, that is what it is all about. At least now I know, it doesn’t have to be all day, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for all the other “no’s” I have to give them.
A set time won’t always work, and sometimes you will just have to jump in and go with the flow. A tip the article gives for improv acting (in our case for play), is to just say yes! When told, “what a lovely duck you have on your head,” don’t say, “I don’t.” Respond, “yes, and she really helps keep the insects away”. This type of playful banter can keep the creative play moving quite nicely, don’t cha think?
Lastly, to make sure you don’t get old with the same types of play, the article suggest you keep ’em guessing by “taking an ordinary situation, and turning it upside down.” Translation: “Do something silly that they will never expect.” Read a book with an accent, or turn a sock from your laundry pile into a puppet with super powers to transform any article of clothing into any character they can imagine. This isn’t so bad, right? I can DO this.
Just get silly, for 20 minutes a day with your kids. They will love it, you will enjoy it, or at least learn to, and you relearn how to play again.
Today, I played Chutes and Ladders with my daughter, and ball with my son, and I didn’t even cringe at the thought. Improvement already.
To read more about me “Improving by Do-ing”, click here.