We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who is Perplexed by Play

Is child's play second nature to you -- or not? ©melbia/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This is going to come across the wrong way, but I don’t know how else to put it. So here goes: I don’t like playing with my kids.

Not that I don’t like being with them or I don’t want to take time for them. But I don’t enjoy playing with their toys or getting down on the floor pretending we’re frogs or anything like that. Board games make me jittery. I never had the patience for activities like that — not even when I was a child myself.

When I see other people get into play mode, my husband included, I start to feel like there’s something very wrong with me. Maybe I was deficient in whatever pregnancy hormone induces a desire to play? I don’t know.

Am I the only one who feels like this? How can I learn to like playing with my children?

–Not Into Toys

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Amanda:

As parents, there are many things that we need and have to do, but we don’t necessarily want to. Some are more dramatic than others of course — rolling out of bed at 3 a.m. because your 2-year-old is throwing up, for example, is a lot more difficult than sitting outside in a rainstorm while your son plays in a playoff baseball game. Of course, neither scenario is a day at the beach, but we’re parents, it’s what we signed up for.

For you, playing with your kids is what has you wishing you were someplace else. And that’s fine. I’m not calling you out on admitting you don’t like to play. Good for you for being honest. But here’s a secret. I’m going to venture while some parents enjoy play more than others, none of us are intellectually stimulated after the fifth round of “Hi Ho Cherry -O” or racing Hot Wheels cars down the track for the umpteenth time (although I really do love to play Barbies and doll house with my daughter).

The thing is, play is important for kids. Sure, it’s a way for them to let off steam and have fun, but through play, children learn important social skills as well as develop physically and emotionally. It’s also a way for your child to spend some quality time with you. Sadly enough, as they get older, there will be less and less of that, so you need to take advantage of it while you still can. Forge a good relationship with your kids now, and it’s something that they’ll (hopefully) remember later during those torrential teen years.

My advice? Fake it. Grit your teeth, get down on the floor and roll those dice, push those cars across the floor and take the baby doll for a walk in the stroller. Right now, you are your child’s best friend. Relish in the joy that you are bringing to your kids and make some happy memories together. You won’t regret it.

Suzanne:

Amanda’s right, most of us are faking it most of the time! But it becomes bearable when you start to realize what your child is actually getting out of playtime with you. After watching you put together the 24-piece Winnie the Pooh puzzle for the 240th time, your preschooler is able to take the lead and is repeating your strategy no less — find the four corners and build the straight lines, then match up the like colors. (Soon enough, you’ll be watching from the couch.)

In the meantime, besides just grinning and bearing it, you might want to spend a few minutes thinking about what it is you like to do and how that can translate into fun playtime activities for your children.

You say you never liked games as a kid, but what did you do to keep busy? If it was arts and crafts, then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind breaking out the pipe cleaners and pom poms or putting a long roll of paper out in the yard for all of you to sponge and splatter with washable paints.

If sports are more your speed, you can set up a goal of some sort for a child of just about any age and see who gets the ball in first. Crawlers through school-age kids will be happy to have mom as a teammate.

And how about baking? If you’re game, then the kids sure will be. Nothing like a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies to cheer everyone up.

So give it some thought. Even if pretend isn’t your thing and board games make you shake, there are bound to be at least a few activities that will keep you and the children amused until they’re old enough to run and hide from you.

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How would you suggest this mom overcome her aversion to playtime? Have you ever felt this way?

Whether it’s playtime woes or relationship issues, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com if you could use a double dose.

2 Responses to “Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who is Perplexed by Play”

  1. As usual, your advice is spot on, gals! There was actually a segment at The Little Gym this weekend (based on a recent news article) about how even light rough-housing is essential to kids, so that’s something dads have definitely gotten right, and more moms need to get on board. Sometimes the endless tickling and singing the same songs over and over or running around in circles gets tiring — we don’t have the energy they do — but it’s important to them. I’d feel guilty if my kid ended up a couch potato in elementary school because she picked up my lazy habits.

  2. Enyo says:

    I’m not one for getting on the floor and playing either. For a while, I thought I was doing something wrong because I didn’t do it “enough”. But then I realized that the time that I spent on the floor with him *was* enough because we make the most of it. (Wrestling on the couch is far more my speed than doing things with blocks.) Sometimes we have to suck it up and do things that we don’t like for the good of our children.

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