Confession: I Don't Know How to Play with My Kids

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK

mom playing with childmom 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.

Related: Keep Your Kids Active This Winter

"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.

Related: Mommy Tummy Makeover

"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?


More from REDBOOK:



Permissions:
Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.