I always assumed that out of my husband and myself, I would be the creative parent. I would be the playful one. I was so sure that I would be the one fearlessly endeavoring into crafts and outings, interacting with the kids indoors and out, and the best at playing dress up and pretend.
I was wrong. Blame it on the fact that I take on both roles and all the work for half the year during deployments, but I have totally forgotten how important and powerful it is to play with my kids.
I’m wrapped up in the household care routine: wake up, get dressed, put in the laundry, breakfast on the table. Dress warmly, warm up the car, drive to preschool, run errands, change laundry, do dishes, cook lunch, toddler nap-time, college schoolwork, fold laundry, plan meals, more laundry, nurse toddler, fix snack, pick up preschooler, dabble in sewing projects, cook dinner, do dishes, clean house, monitor chores . . . wait . . .
I totally forgot to play with my kids today.
How Does It Happen!?
In all the love I pour out for them in my work as a matriarch: laundering their clothes, teaching them to cook, modeling table manners, encouraging responsibility, helping them share. . . and for all the work I’m doing for my education and professional advancement . . . the power of play has been forgotten.
I just had a wake up call. I need to remember to play more with my children. Just because my 4 year old has a sibling doesn’t mean that mama doesn’t need to join in on the fun.
Today, before dinner, we played with Abbey’s Barbie princesses. They greeted each other, made conversation, and then sat together, wanting to see a mermaid splash up from the ocean water. And she did splash up. It was so exciting!
I took five minutes out of my busy day of household management and work to do, and I played with Abbey and Joe. I gave them 100% of my attention, and played Barbies with them. And though it seems like just a passing few minutes, it was really meaningful to Abbey.
Play is Love
At dinner this evening, Abbey stopped eating, wiped her mouth, and took a drink of water. Very solemnly, she asked for my attention:
“Excuse me mommy. . . I love playing with you. When I play with you, I fall in LOVE with you – like Cinderella falls in love with her Prince when they’re dancing in their story!”
I was speechless. I just reached over and cupped her beautiful face in my hand and kissed her.
“I’m looking forward to playing with you again after Joseph is in bed. What will we play then?” I asked.
Resolving to Play
I think I’ll spend more of my time playing with my daughter from now on. “Will you play with me, mommy?” will be answered much more often with a “yes, I would LOVE to” and less often with a “In a few minutes” or “Let me finish this first . . . ”
Because the declaration of love that she made at the dinner table – it wiped away weeks of power struggles and frantic thoughts of impending deadlines, and piled up laundry and dishes. When Abbey said “When you play with me, I fall in love with you . . . ”
That was such a wake up call. Though modeling cleanliness and responsibility is part of parenting, our children aren’t going to particularly remember if the house was immaculate and whether I controlled the laundry or the laundry controlled me . . .
There’s a popular saying that travels around circles of moms and dads that “the best mom has sticky floors, dirty ovens, laundry piles, and happy kids.” I think I actually understand that saying now. I’m not going to forget my household duties or ignore research-paper deadlines or writing commitments, but I am going to commit to play with my children more and worry less. Because I want so badly for my sweet girl – for both of my kids – to fall in love with me – every day.
More on the Power of Play
- Dr. Larry Cohen’s Playful Parenting is a wonderful and riveting reference on the power of play in parenting.
- NPN’s Natural Learning Resource Section has great links to help make your home a playful, natural learning space.
- Author Charise shares great ways to play with older siblings while tending to the needs of younger ones.
- And here are some great creative movement games you can play with your kids, a discussion on nature play , and on parenting through play in infancy and beyond.
Do you take time to 100% PLAY with your children?
How does your choice affect your parenting and/or family life?