“Will you play with me?”
From there, you’re pulled in, you take your position and you’re given your official assignment. “Okay, you’re her, pretend you said this, then do this…NO, you did it wrong!” This is how imaginative play typically goes with my seven-year-old daughter. Whether it’s Barbies, stuffed animals, or – believe it or not – the topiaries in the backyard, it’s all perfectly calculated.
When I hear these five words, I typically divert. “How about this, instead?” or “Okay, in just a bit.” As a mom, I feel a lot of guilt over this, especially since my daughter is an only child and lacks a sibling playmate.
“You don’t want to play with your child? What kind of mom ARE you?” I say to myself.
Truth is, I connect with my daughter in other ways. I love talking to her about her thoughts and opinions, snuggling and watching a Disney show together, doing our nails or reading books…but, I simply dread playing.
I’ve given it a lot of thought. Why is it that I don’t enjoy it? Is there something WRONG with me? I think back to how my own childhood was consumed with imaginative play. I would rush home from school to bust open my closet and soak up hours of one-on-one Barbie time in my room. “This is the life!” I thought. My sister would join in on the fun, too. We maintained Barbie families complete with their own storylines and homes (toilet paper rolls made for great couches). So why now as an adult am I so reluctant to do this with my daughter? Perhaps it’s that I’m not in control anymore (or, that I always have to be the Ken).
I think the real issue for me is patience.
As moms, it can be difficult to live in the present. We’re always thinking about what’s next or what else we could be doing with our time. When a child invites you to play, you know it would go on for hours if left up to them. Sitting idly playing Barbies just flat out makes me anxious. Oh, the rules! When will it end?!
The bottom line is this: playing with my daughter is important. It’s how she wants to connect with me. The best approach for me is to set a time frame for play.
It may or may not be one that I share with her, but it’s important to me to have one. So, after 30 minutes it’s, “Okay, I’m going to do my laundry now. That was fun!” I’ve also found that bath time is good for play because she knows that the bath eventually comes to an end. She understands that routine.
We all do things for our children that we don’t necessarily enjoy. For me, it’s play time. I know that there will come a day when the Barbies will be replaced with other things and instead of those five little words, I’ll hear these five, “Can you drive me there?” So, I’m trying to practice patience and live in the present. Oh, and keep in mind how cute those big eyes and bright smile are when you say five little words back: “Yes, I’ll play with you!”