I don’t like playing with my kids.
There I said it. I can feel the judgement starting to form.
But let me clarify. I love my kids dearly. I love spending time with them. I love doing activities with them. But playing with them? That’s another story.
Being an elementary teacher by trade, I will never shy away from crafts, playdough, structured learning activities, and board games. I will always look forward to a walk and drawing with sidewalk chalk. But hearing the words, “Mom, will you play with me?” Always makes me nervous. Why?
Well, because I’m just not good at it. I have the hardest time committing my imagination to playtime. My mind wanders as they tell me what character they want me to be and what they want me to say. I mentally start checking off and adding to my to do list, as I am shopping in the pretend store they have set up. I start thinking about the ingredients needed for dinner, as I lay on the ground pretending to have boo-boos needing tending to.
My husband though? He is a wonderful playing companion. His imagination runs wild with the kids. He takes them on pirate ships as they search for gold. He treks through jungles with them hunting for wild animals. He endlessly plays soccer, basketball, and baseball with them in the yard.
When I compare my playing ability to my husband, I feel far less superior. There is just no competition. But then I stop and remind myself, the kids aren’t holding a competition between mom and dad. At the end of the day, they just want uninterrupted quality time with us.
I don’t have to be good at playing. The kids don’t even have to know that I don’t like playing with them. I just have to make sure I am present. This means I have to give my imagination the opportunity to run wild with theirs. It means I have to figure out how to put my to do list away as I “play”. It means I need to shift my thinking and start viewing “playtime” as unstructured learning moments, for my kids and myself. Most importantly, it means I have to revel in the fact that my children are eager to spend time with me, whether or not I consider myself good at playing. The day that I stop hearing, “Mom, will you play with me?” will be the day my heart silently breaks. Because even if I don’t like the act of playing, I undoubtedly love the time spent with them. And when all is said and done, that’s really all we want, quality time together.
FYI: My husband hates playing PlayDough.