By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
mom playing with child
"Mom! Play with me!" is probably one of the most frequently heard refrains in parenthood. Which is why I'm more than a little ashamed to say that even after four children, I still have no idea how to do that. Usually I look at toys as something that I buy to distract my children so I can go do other things. Like pick up all the other toys they left around the house. But there's always a little flush of guilt when one of my kids begs me to play with them and I say, "Not now, I'm busy." I mean they're only young for such a short time, right? (No, that's not a rhetorical question. I've been in the "toddler" stage for 10 years now. Please somebody tell me this ends eventually.)
So today, when my bored-out-of-his-mind 5-year-old started the incessant whining for something to do, I decided that I would do just this-I would play with him. Not just play around him (read: pick up his room while he makes more messes). Not just play next to him (read: post cute pics of him from my cellphone to Facebook while he builds a train track). But actually sit down and play with him. It didn't go well.
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"Okay, how do we play this?" I chirped, plopping down amidst a bizarre assortment of toys. My son looked back at me, baffled. Sweeping his arms over the pile of plastic Christmas ornaments (the bad guys), 5 mechanical fish from a board game (the sharks), plastic animals from his sister's Princess collection (the army), a carpet of Legos (the obligatory choking hazard) and a bunch of Cars figures that talk (the good guys), he explained, "You just play mom! And don't break any of my stuff."
Board games, Play-Doh and crafts I can handle, but how do I play with all this disparate stuff? I tried making a Lego diving board for the fish to jump off, but apparently that was too literal and not any fun because nothing was blown up. Then I tried making a Death Star out of the star-shaped Christmas ornaments and not only was he not amused, I was bummed out that no one was around to get my clever joke. I briefly considered grabbing my phone and posting it to Facebook where other adults would, literally, "Like" me.
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"Mom!" he admonished again. "Don't you know how to play?!" Apparently not. Even worse, I was seriously bored. I laid down on his Pillow Pet and told him that I was secretly consulting with it about a plan of attack. Which he thought was cool until he realized my ESP was just napping.
It was a bust. He was disappointed. I was disheartened. Why is playing with a child not as easy as, well, child's play?
Anyone else have a hard time really playing with their kids? Any advice for me?
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