It’s a given that little kids love – and need – to play. But what about their parents? Sure, channeling your inner child and “playing” apparently does marvels for your health and longevity. But how do you reconcile your inner child – a girl child – with the realities of raising three young boys?
In my case, you don’t. I hate to play.
Stacking rings, ball ‘n’ hammer and shape sorters are mind-numbing. Building intricate railway lines and racecar tracks, only to have them demolished by Spiderman and Batman, is an exercise in futility. And light saber battles always get a little too out of hand for this mother.
And then there’s the park. Watching my young son smile and laugh as I pushed him in the swing was wonderful – the first time around. Ultimately, I loathed micromanaging swing schedules, let alone standing there and pushing for hours on end.
Was I an awful mom because I couldn’t stand chasing my boys around the structures, hoping they wouldn’t fall through one of the openings? A game or two of hide and seek was fine in theory but in practice, I found myself embroiled in worst-case scenarios as I tried not to lose anyone to the perils of streets, other people’s backyards, or worse.
As my kids get older, how and what they play has changed. My guys need to run. Street hockey, after-school soccer, and general land sports have taken over from Lego and pirates. And, I confess, I’ve been known to hide at my desk “working” rather than participate.
I thought it was my own dirty little little secret. But I quickly realized that I’m not alone in preferring cleaning the dinner plates to building forts. Call me a stereotype, but I like to do the girly stuff: arts and crafts, coloring, baking. I’ve been known to butch it up with kitchen science and temporary tattoos, but in the end it’s the same non-physical kind of “play” that my inner child embraces.
Sometimes I worry I might be left out. While my husband organizes team sports and rides roller coasters, I’m bagging snacks and packing sunscreen. Will this make my kids like me less? Will I be the boring old Mum who is less queen of the house and more maid of the manor? Or worse: Martyr?
Lately, my boys have discovered their mama likes the odd round of Wii Rock Band. And Tetris tournaments. I’m well aware that “gaming” isn’t really the sort of “playing” I should be encouraging. But in board games I become the warden. And playing cards always end in 52-pick-up – with me as the janitor. Luckily, my guys have learned that I’m much more fun when it comes to a dining excursion, shopping trip or seeing a movie.
And if we get a heart-to-hear heart conversation out of it (which we almost always do), all the better. Who says girl talk is just for girls, anyway?