Parenting Perspectives: Trying to be a more playful parent
It’s not yet 7 a.m. on Sunday, and Owen and I are the only ones awake. He holds up a Frisbee and asks me what it is.
I’ve been neglecting the yard work. Weeds sprout from between each row of patio pavers. I bend down to pluck one, and another, and another. Owen’s voice calls me back.
“Let’s play catch!”
The grass is wet from the storm the night before. He doesn’t like the feel of it around his feet. We stay on the patio.
I plop down on my bottom and toss him the Frisbee. And pick a weed.
He tosses me the Frisbee using both hands, like he’s making a granny shot. I catch it, and pick another weed. I pick a few more.
“Mommy, watch me!”
Still I try to multitask, weeds and Frisbee, missing it. Missing his eagerness to play catch. Missing this moment, the likes of which I know are fleeing fast. And missing the Frisbee when it flies into my downturned head.
I chastise myself, but can’t seem to help it. I’ve never been a great play partner for my kids. It’s just not one of my strong points as a parent.
When Eve was a baby, I’d watch my mommy friends play with their little ones so effortlessly, making up silly games and eliciting giggles. Meanwhile, I sat on the floor clueless, racking my brain for how to entertain her.
As a 4-year-old, her never-ending requests to role-play pre-scripted imaginary games while I was trying to care for a baby would drive me batty.
Now, it seems life is filled with more distractions. I’m working more hours than ever before in my parenthood. I seem to always have one hand and one eye on my cellphone.
Even when I try to be intentional about giving my all to my kids, I’m just not that playful, or patient.
When Eve pulls out her Barbie gear, I get down on the floor to dress and undress the dolls. But after a while I get distracted by the itty bitty pieces being strewn all over the carpet and begin picking up.
Owen’s newest favorite game is to have me draw pictures, usually barnyard animals, over and over and over again. So I color white sheets of printer paper with broken crayons, or scribble on a magnetic drawing board, over and over and over again. And by about the 18th over again, I’m done.
Then there’s the shrieks and tears and hair-pulling that their joint play tends to devolve into, and I end up playing referee instead.
Still, I know there’s no better way to teach my kids than through play. There are no memories I’ll cherish more, like Saturday morning, when I pushed them on a backyard swing set, they pushed me in a hammock, and I kicked a soccer ball with Eve.
And so, six years into parenting, I’ll continue to practice playing.
Summer seems like the perfect time to do so, when we can swing, slide and splash in the water.
Over and over and over again.