WHERE HAS MY PLAYFULNESS GONE & HOW CAN I BE THAT PLAYFUL PARENT AGAIN?
“Mommy, can you play with me?”
“Will you play with me outside?””
I was cleaning the kitchen, and had swept the floor before dumping a new load into the washer. The kids were outside but my oldest daughter kept coming into the house askingbegging me to play with her.
With three kids, the odd number usually means two pair up and one is left on the outside.
When it’s her, she has trouble playing by herself and will sidle up to the nearest adult for attention and companionship.
I said things like, “just a minute,” and “when I’m done cleaning I can play with you.”
She walked in the house a third time as I was moving clothes from the washer to the dryer when she asked again.
“Can you play yet?”
“One more minute, I’m almost done.” I said without looking up.
My tone had a fleck of annoyance and it was too sharp.
I was nearly done, but truth be told, I could spot a hundred more things that really needed to be taken care of when I looked around.
She sighed and walked out of the room, heading in the opposite direction of the backdoor and instead for the stairs up to her room. Defeated.
What she said under her breath wasn’t meant to be heard it was so quiet, but it still cut me straight to my heart.
“You never play with me. You’re always too busy.”
My back straightened like a rod.
The door to the dryer was still open and my hands were holding a bundle of damp clothes.
I squeezed my eyes shut and the pain of her words ran through me.
My mind replayed all the times the kids asked me to play with them and the times I put them off. The times I was busy cleaning or working on my computer, paying bills or making meals and never stopping what I was doing to just play with them.
She was right. I didn’t play as much as I should. Nor as much as I wanted.
Being a Mom, means that I’m always busy moving and doing something; packing lunches, folding laundry, shuttling to and from school or for sports. The busyness doesn’t stop often enough and when it does, that doesn’t mean I have any energy left to run around the backyard playing tag.
The saying ,”I’m not a spring chicken anymore” could be plastered on my forehead these days.
I can’t recall the last time I was on the floor playing with the kids or putting together a puzzle.
Surely it hasn’t been more than a month, right? RIGHT?
Unless they wanted to watch a movie on the couch and I could drink a cup of coffee as a bonus, you’d probably find me accumulating steps on my Fitbit as I picked away at tasks.
The seesaw balance between taking care of my children and taking care of household business was a delicate one. And it seemed that the seesaw wasn’t tipping much in the favor of my children lately.
RUNNING A HOUSEHOLD MAKES ME A LESS PLAYFUL PARENT
Having a clean house that’s tidy and clutter free is one of the ways that I know to manage the feelings of being a stressed parent who is trying her best to juggle it all.
When my home is looking sharp, my state of mind is that of a happy and calm parent. I don’t have dirty toilets, an empty fridge or an overflowing basket of laundry starring me down from the corner of the room when I crawl in bed.
And that’s a good feeling.
But all that a clean home comes with is also making me less attentive to my children and a less fun and playful Mom whose responsibilities get in the way.
The feelings Juliette had, I intimately knew them.
I had felt that as a kid her age too and that made the feeling in my own chest hurt even more.
My parents never stopped to play with me, or my brother and sister. We were left to entertain ourselves and yes, this helped me have one heck of an imagination when I was left to my own devices of conquering boredom. But I also felt lonely and second fiddle a lot of times.
They were busy working or keeping the house in shape, and I understood this, but I didn’t feel like a priority even sometimes.
When I recognized those old feelings, my heart stung in pain.
I didn’t want my daughter to feel lonely or that she didn’t take precedence over cleaning, washing and scrubbing. Because she’s far more important than a clean house, but when I put her off and can’t follow through with my promise to play with her, I let her down.
There are benefits to letting kids play on their own and to explore without being reliant on Mom and Dad to entertain them. however, there is a balance between independent play and playtime with family, including parents.
One-on-one time with a parent goes a long way to promote the parent-child relationship which leads to better communication, honesty, connection and trust.
ADULT OBLIGATIONS ROB US OF OUR PLAYFULNESS
Being silly with your kids when the opportunity presents itself is wonderful, but how many times do we ignore or push off those chances to play because we’re backed up with everyday obligations and responsibilities?
This was a chance to show my daughter I could be a more playful parent.
If I let the opportunity pass me by, would it come around again?
I put the damp clothes into the dryer, started the drying cycle and slid the 100 other things I would have loved to tackle, out of my mind.
Play doesn’t just benefit my children, it benefits me as well. Being silly helps relieve stress and resets priorities when they’ve gotten out of focus. A clean house can wait an extra 10 or 20 minutes when my priorities are put into perspective.
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ONE TRICK TO MAKING PLAY A PRIORITY
When I can’t always walk away from my work or responsibilities on the spot, I set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes and work until the bell sounds and then walk away from it until later. (I use this basic kitchen timer.)
The sound of a bell going off makes the kids jump up in excitement and is a physical reminder to stop what I’m doing and go play, be silly and have fun.
My kids may not want to play with me tomorrow or next week, or next month, but for right now they do. I don’t want to miss those opportunities to play with them, when I don’t know if this could be the last time.
25 SILLY WAYS TO BE A MORE PLAYFUL PARENT
Stop What You’re Doing and…
- Grab Ice Cream or a Special Treat
- Go for a Walk Together
- Tickle Your Kids
- Have a Dance Party – or even better, a Glow in the Dark Dance Party
- Have a Handstand Contest – or just do Handstands, Cartwheels and Headstands
- Take Silly Selfies
- Build a Fort
- Play Dress Up
- Play Hide and Seek
- Do a New Art Project with Your Kids
- Have a Water Gun / Nerf Gun / Water Balloon Fight
- Chase Your Kids Around the Yard or at a Park
- Let Your Kids Paint Your Nails
- Camp Out in the Backyard
- Play in the Rain and Jump in Puddles
- Make a Snow Fort / Snowman / Have a Snowball Fight / Go Sledding
- Have a Picnic on the Living Room Floor
- Go the Pool
- Wrestle with Your Kids
- Play Tag or Freeze Tag
- Color with Sidewalk Chalk
- Play Catch Together
- Play with a Hula Hoop
- Put on Music & Dance While You Make Dinner
- Go on a Bike Ride