I have always been interested in kids. I babysat when I was younger and enjoyed spending time with the kids I watched. I always thought I would be the kind of parent who really actively engaged with the kids, the fun mom who always thought up games and had patience for projects and was otherwise a real gem.
It turns out, I don’t like to play.
I’m not sure when it happened. It’s like going bald, I guess: a few hairs a day and one morning you realize “holy shit, my head is shiny!”
It was easier when my kids were younger, a perk of short attention spans. I could spend a few seconds shaking a noisy toy long enough to distract the crying, then I could resume my daily dose of TLC programming. Or I could just sit on the floor with them, occasionally holding a toy in one hand while balancing a paperback in the other. By the time they hit age 2, they were more interested in flexing their muscles of independence than they were in playing with me. Phew.
They want me to play “puppy,” in which I am the mother dog and they are the baby dogs. Um, don’t we already live this?
They want me to play tag. Indoors. With one of them. Let me break that down for you. Me, chasing one child, around my house. Until I catch her. Then-?
I bought games. Lots of games. I can play games. Clear rules, precise beginning and ending (minus Monopoly, which I have deliberately NOT purchased). Turns out, my kids don’t like to play games.
My son is very, very bright with an exceptional memory. He is a little bit different from most boys his age, sensitive, quiet, imaginative, calm. I tried to teach him to play chess. Yet, after I laid out the pieces and explained how each moves, he decided we would not play the traditional game of chess but instead each side was a family. And the horses like to play together…
That was the end of chess.
I wish I liked to play. If I could remake myself, I’d be a playing mom.
Instead, what I try to do now is 10 minutes. I can do 10 minutes of just about anything. I shoot for giving them 10 minutes of playtime with me when they ask for it. Not 10 minutes per day, or 10 minutes per kid. Just 10 minutes, as needed.
I figure 10 minutes of play is better than nothing, right?
I am, after all, just a work in progress.