Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playtime

I never in all my life remember my mom playing with me. That is not a sad statement by the way.

My mom did not work outside of the home until I was in fourth grade. I was the youngest in the family, so she had been home quite some time. I remember feeling very neglected when she went back to work. I was just like my friend Carrie who had a house key and went home to an empty house every day. Well, that is what I liked to imagine when I was feeling sorry for myself, anyway! The truth was, my dad worked shift work and was home a lot. My big sister got home from junior high 30 minutes after I got home, and my mom could take off anytime she needed to when we were sick or even to pick us up from school if it was raining. I was hardly on my own. I didn't even get a house key out of the deal.

But when my mom was a homemaker, I never remember her playing with us. If she was sewing, we wandered in and started bothering her. She gave us her button box and an empty egg carton and we sorted buttons happily at the table beside her. If she was folding laundry, we put on a record and danced around the living room while she folded clothes. If she was sorting laundry, we wandered into the bathroom and helped. In between these things, we went to our own rooms and played. She stopped to help us dress the Barbie dolls, came and admired the block town we had built, and listened to us read while she sewed. She was always busy, and I never felt neglected. Today, I feel guilty that I don't play with my kids. Why? I read all the time about how we need to just let the housework go so we can spend quality time with our kids. About how we need to make time to play with them.

Now let me back up a minute and say that when my girls were babies of course I played with them. When they were big enough to sit up on the quilt, I stacked blocks with them, made up funny games, tickled them...we had a blast! When they get old enough to use their own imagination...that tapers off. I tried to continue playing with Sweetheart when she was 5 and got her dollhouse. She told me what to say, how to move the dolls, rejected every idea my doll came up with and just basically bossed me around. I was like, "I think you got this. I'll be over here if you need me." The truth is, they don't need me to play with them that much anymore.

Now I'm not saying I never play with them either. We go swimming and play in the pool. We play board games, work puzzles, and color together. We shoot hoops. There are activities we get involved in with each other. I'm just saying I don't go into the playroom and try to enter their pretend world. I don't fit so good in that play kitchen anyway.

I don't know why people say we NEED to play with our kids. My kids are really good at playing without me.

The truth is, I am a homemaker. Of course training and raising my children is more important than the dishes being clean. But I'm not convinced these two activities are two separate things. I think working alongside each other is important. They are learning to be wives, mommies, homemakers, etc. all from example (shudder). I don't have my back turned to them telling them to go away all day. They are (almost) always welcome to join me. They wander in, help me cook a while, and then wander off to play again. They are not neglected. Plus, homeschooling give them LOTS of my attention.

And by the way, I never remember my mom's bedroom being covered over in clothes. She always kept up with the laundry. Hmmm.

19 comments:

  1. This spoke to my heart today and has given me some relief. Thank you, friend! Well said!

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  2. I'm not the type to play with my kids, either. I love reading to them, and we enjoying museums and the great outdoors together.

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  3. I agree, Brenda. After all, where will girls learn how to play house if we're not busy showing them what "house" is? And exactly from whom do they learn how to take care of their babies/dolls? Sure, some of it just comes naturally because they are girls, just as playing trucks comes natural to boys. But, I think most of the desire to play those things comes from seeing Mom at work each day. We mothers take on way more guilt than we ever should. And I'm most guilty of that! Thanks for the reminder!

    P.S. I must admit though, there is nothing like a game of indoor hide-and-seek:)

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  4. Oh, Brenda, this is so dead-on!

    You hear so much about playing with the kids. And I do try to spend time intentionally with each child throughout the day... but it's usually not playing. It's with them helping me make the ricotta cheese mixture for the lasagna, or helping me load the laundry, or sitting down and reading on the couch side by side, snuggling or holding hands.

    Wow. This post is really, really wise. Thanks for sharing it.

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  5. I'm glad you're so smart. :-)

    These posts are always things we moms need to hear.

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  6. I think this one may depend on your personality. I love to play with my children. My boys LOVE me to play with them. I don't think what you are saying is wrong. I just think it's a "to each his own" kinda thing. Could be that with my drama background I have no problem entering into a pretend world. LOL

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  7. I have a drama background too and personally I think I have GREAT ideas for pretend play...but all they do is boss me around the older they get and tell me I'm doing it wrong! :)

    I do love a good tea party, however.

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  8. Thank you so much for this post! I never know where to find the balance - being a sweet and joyful example to our children as we get our work done, but welcoming them to be with us and encouraging them in their OWN play is the balance.

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  9. Well said. I do set aside 15 minutes a day to play with one child by him/herself. But our "real" play is amongst the laundry piles (cheering them on as they jump off the couch into them just before sorting).

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  10. People always marvel at how well my kids are at entertaining themselves. I think it is important to give them the freedom to use their imagination without our interference.

    Great post!! I completely agree.

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  11. Lol this makes me feel a little better. I have a little guy who will be 1 in a few days and he PREFERS to play by himself. If I come to play with him he gets upset after a few minutes.

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  12. This post really helped me feel unburdened today. Lately, as a "single mom by location" it's been difficult not to take people's comments to heart--"oh but what was Peapod doing while you did all this canning/freezer cooking/cleaning?"--why playing on her own or helping me, of course. I do love to play with my daughter and she loves to help me out, however, both of these activities cannot *always* happen, and sometimes she must entertain herself, which I think is very good for children. Can creative, imaginative child's play really thrive with a boring practical adult overhead? I might have a bit of whimsy in me, but not enough for her liking I'm afraid. :P

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  13. Thank you for this post! I found you through a post of links over at Making Home. I too had a SAHM for a mom & remember asking my older sister about the fact that I didn't remember Mom playing with us. I was #4 of five kids. She didn't have time to play as she was busy taking care of the home. Reading this makes me realize what she DID do & what I have in turn done with my boys - just as you said. I'm here with them - training them. Thanks.

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  14. Thanks so much for this! I've had inklings of this same thought, but struggled to put it together that didn't sound like an excuse. And it's encouraging to know that I'm not the only one with bossy girls!

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  15. I also found your post from Making Home, and find it very liberating! So far my 3-year old boy doesn't mind my playing with him and his cars and monster trucks, but he tells me how things should go so much that I don't think I'm adding much to the playtime! He plays so well on his own, and my 1-year old enjoys alone time himself as well.
    I remember being a "bossy girl" as an early teen: my mother joined us one day when we used to put on shows and videotape them, and she (bless her heart) was trying so hard to be funny and cool with us that we just rolled our eyes and thought she shouldn't hang out with us anymore. She meant well, but another aspect to think about is what impression we'll leave when, as an adult in the authority role of parent, tries to act like "one of the kids." There's a time for fun, but we're always parents first. Kids can't grow up thinking there's no housework to do, that someone else will take care of it. It's good for them to see us in all of our responsibilities, caring for our kids and playing but also working hard in our homes.
    Thanks for your post.
    -Sally

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  16. I was noticing the other day how my older son (4) sometimes asks me to help him build something with his blocks, but then doesn't like the way I do it, so I tell him to go ahead and build it the way he wants (not rudely or spitefully). So, when that happens, it's not always enjoyable to play with him (realizing what is important isn't always going to be enjoyable anyway), and then I'll sit in the same room and read or write a letter or fold laundry, etc. I always felt a little bad about that, as if I were "neglecting them", even though I do think it's a good idea for them to learn to do things, even playing, by themselves. My boys do love to help me with the laundry, sometimes cooking and dishes, and ALWAYS want me to read with them. Thanks for this fresh perspective.

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I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)