Let's Learn To Play Again

"Com'on momma, righ' now. Hold hands. Over here, look outside - SQUIRRRRRREL!"

I hear something to this affect at least five times a day from my toddler. He loves having me walk with him to various windows around the house looking for squirrels and pointing out imaginary rhinos, doggies, giraffes and penguins. While it's adorable the first time each day, by the eighth time, I'm growing tired of stopping what I'm doing to look at a lame view out a window and struggling to muster up feigned excitement over annoying animals that like to eat our trash.

I think one of the more challenging things for me as a mom is that I struggle to be motivated to engage in authentic play with my children. I'm Type-A by nature and it seems every time I get down on the floor to play diggers with my son in his room, all I can see is the closet that needs reorganized, the crib that needs dusted (Like seriously, have you looked at all the stuff that collects between the slats?) and the nail holes in the wall that need refilled and painted. I'll half-heartedly drive the bulldozer around, jumping into action when the toddler commands, but secretly picking lint off the blanket when he's not looking - I'm so bored to tears.

It's not that I don't value play or think it's not important. I know it is incredibly valuable to for children in developing imagination, social skills, empathy, problem solving and more. And my personality actually does lend itself to organizing and creating fun things. For better or worse, I am the mom that actually attempts all (well, some of) the kid activities I pin on Pinterest - and I love researching and finding fun and stimulating activities for my kids outside the house so they can experience and participate in new things.

It's just that I'm not all that great at being a participant. For some reason, every time I agree to drive a train on the track with my son, my eyes start to twitch and my brain wanders over to my to-do list within 10 minutes. And over these past few months, with so much many plates spinning in the air, I've found myself brushing Eli off for the big, important Mommy Jobs, and not being as intentional with Colette as I should be - and now that things are slowing down, I'm struggling to find the motivation to truly be present while we play.

But the thing is, I don't want to be the mom of just a quick glance, a short distraction, the I Have Better Things To Do. My children and their interests are The BEST Things I Can Do. I want to be a mom that is present and involved. A mom that gives her children the gift of her time and energy. A mom that plays. A mom that enters their world and helps to make it bigger, better - even though my natural inclination is to inspect their world, offer a few tips and leave it to them to execute my suggestions.

So as hard as it is for me, I'm recommitting to playing with my children. To letting Eli ride me like a horsey far longer than my lazybones want to be. To spending intentional time tickling and overly pageant-smiling at Colette, all in hopes in getting one back from her. To eating 16 slices of fake apples and helping Rex the "di-no-noar" eat 16 more; as Eli instructs and Colette's bobble-head watches in fascination.

I want to be present with my children. Not just creating and facilitating play, but entering into their world and engaging with their imagination. It's not that I feel I need to become a Play! All! The! Time! kinda mom, I'm still a HUGE fan of independent play, but I'm working on finding a balance and beginning to look at playing with my kids as an effective use of my time - an investment - rather than an inconvenience. I don't know about you, but when I see something as having a purpose, a longer term goal, I'm much more apt to make it a priority in my day.

My babies won't be this little for long and I know eventually I'll be begging them to talk to me, spend time with me, and let me know more about their world. They won't remember the days when I was their world - when they were the ones begging me to race their cars around or act like an elephant. But I do hope they'll remember I was there. That I was present. That I was fun.

And, that I played with them.

How about you? Is it hard for you to be an active participant in playing with your children? Or does it come easily to you? Any tips or tricks?


  1. I also really struggle with "child's play", especially the monotony of pretend play. It literally drives me nuts to he point where I think I am no longer a nice person, so my daughter and I agreed that I would play some "real" games with her once my "jobs"are done. Some cultures think it completely bonkers that adults should participate in childrens games, so I try to think of that when I really don't want to play, as well as building independence and self-directed creativity. Doesn't really stop the perpetual mommy-guilt though!

  2. Totally agree with you! And yes, I like to remind myself of the fact that my mom was a working mom, and while I don't really have memories of playing with her, I always felt loved and cared for - which is, like you said, how a lot of cultures work! I think it's great to find a balance - not putting TOO much pressure either way. So glad you can relate!