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Published May 28, 2012, 11:30 PM

Richards: Being constant play partner can be tough

My 4-year-old daughter has come down with a serious case of the “how abouts.” As in, “How about we pretend I’m a lost baby princess and you find me in the forest?” “How about I’m a doctor and you’re in the hospital and I make you feel better?”

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

My 4-year-old daughter has come down with a serious case of the “how abouts.”

As in, “How about we pretend I’m a lost baby princess and you find me in the forest?” “How about I’m a doctor and you’re in the hospital and I make you feel better?” “How about there’s a talent show and I’m on stage and you watch me and say ‘Oh look at Eve dance?’ ”

It’s amazing as a parent to watch your child evolve in the world of play, to see her imagination and creativity grow.

It’s also driving me crazy.

Because the “how abouts” are incessant. It doesn’t matter if I’m stirring three bubbling pots on the stove or nursing baby Owen or using the bathroom, Eve has another “how about” for us to act out.

Nor does it matter if I’ve asked her six times to get dressed or pick up her toys or sit down for dinner. She wants to “how about.”

One day, flustered by all I needed to do, I asked Eve to please not say the words “how about” for 5 minutes. She lasted 13 seconds.

And when we play “how about,” Eve is a demanding director. There’s no improvisation allowed on my end.

Eve has never been one to entertain herself, and while I love being her preferred playmate, it’s just not feasible to spend 12 hours a day playing imaginary games when I work from home – as a wife, mom and writer.

Sometimes I think it’d be less work if I babysat another preschooler, someone else who could occupy her endless energy.

One day, Owen will be a great playmate. But for now, when he’s cast as Prince Phillip in her “how about I’m Sleeping Beauty” game, I hold him as he slays Maleficent, gives my pint-sized Aurora a kiss, and leads her around the dance floor.

The “how abouts” are in full force at an interesting time. Eve’s morning preschool is done for the summer. For the first time since she was a newborn, she’ll be at home with me 24/7. And I’ll have two kids with me all day, every day, for the first time since I became a mother.

Well, except for Eve’s two-week winter break last December, when we butted stocking cap-covered heads each day. I hadn’t realized how important that 3-hour weekday break from each other was.

I know with time we’ll adapt to our new summertime normal. We’ll schedule play dates and outdoor adventures. I’ll need to do more of my work after Dad gets home and can entertain the kids.

And with time, Eve will become interested in other kinds of play. I won’t be her go-to playmate. And I’ll miss with longing the days of the endless “how abouts.”

How about that?

Sherri Richards is an employee of The Forum and mother of 4-year-old Eve and 10-month-old Owen.

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