Hindsight Parenting: When a Parent Doesn’t Like to Play
I Am Not a Player
I am not a player. No, no…I don’t mean the polyester-wearing-Victoria’s-Secret-peekin’-buttons-opened-to-my-navel player. No! Sheesh. I am NOT talking about THAT kind of player. I am talking about get-out-the-Fisher-Price-sit-down-on-th-rug-make-your-voice-high-for-the-girl-doll-and-a-low-voice-for-the-boy-doll kind of player. I am not kidding when I say that playing dolls or tea party or with a Dora kitchen gives me the anxiety of a bomb-squad member trying to keep an explosive from blowing up a town (okay that may be a WEE bit of an exaggeration, but…you get the idea.).
When my sons were younger, the five words I dreaded the most were “Will you play with me?” Ugh! How I’d cringe. I would twist. I would turn. I would grasp for any plausible idea that I could come up with for not succumbing to action figures or catch or hide and seek.
Being a single mom made this even more of a dilemma because quite often, I was the only on available to play with my sons, to teach them imagination (of which I had none.). What added to this problem, believe it or not, was my good old friend “Hindsight.” Not Hindsight in a parental way, but Hindsight from my childhood. You see, I came by this dread of playing naturally. Neither parent of mine really was the get down on the rug and play kind of people either. The problem that came from this realization is how I felt when it was ME who asked those five words, “Will you play with me?” It became quite clear very early on how absolutely uncomfortable those words made my mother and father, and, like most kids, I didn’t like it very much that I was making them feel that way, nor did I like the way their reluctance made me feel. And so…when my dear sons said those dreaded words Hindsight’s guilt seeped in deeply and tsked tsked me constantly. After all, I really should have known better and got myself to paste a smile on this face and play with the damn Fisher Price action figures. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t muster even the smallest enthusiasm for…well…play. Thank goodness that my boys’ step father came along when he did. He is really the greatest player (as in toys) in the universe…really just a big ol’ kid.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the first thoughts I had (after the shock wore off) when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter was “Ugh…she’s going to hit that toddler age and want me to play!” The anxiety set in immediately.
I am happy to say that this time around, the playing problem has been minimal at best for several reasons. First, my husband knows all too well my play avoidance and many long talks were had before Ila was born about the necessity for him to fill this role. Second, and most surprisingly, I don’t seem to mind to play as much as I did in my twenties. I still don’t like it mind you…but the analogy of the bomb diffuser could probably be taken down a few notches to maybe say a public speaker’s anxiety.
This summer, however, made the anxiety rise toward bomb diffuser again. My husband is working long hours and I am staying home with Ila. I have to admit that I was dreading the summer because of the “play dilemma” instead of embracing my time with her. But once again Hindsight stepped in to remind me of an important lesson that I had learned from my beloved, “Dr. Speed Dial.” My job as a parent was to provide for my children what it was that they need. So if Ila needed play and I wasn’t the one who could give that to her then it was my job to find a way to get her what she needed.
That solution came in the form of two angels named Kaitlin and Lauren. These “mommy’s helpers” are PLAYERS! The good kind. They sit on the floor. They make high voices and low voices when playing with dolls. They paint and color and skip and do chalk drawing on sidewalks. They take walks and play at playgrounds and sing. They aren’t afraid to be goofy and best of all (according to Ila) they know how to have tea parties because (and I quote) “Mommy you not too good at that.” Most importantly, they love Ila and Ila loves them. She gets to play and I get the warm satisfied feeling that I provided her with what she needed. That I can do, because after all this being a mom thing…it ain’t child’s play!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
Thinking back on my own 2 kids and their play, they never asked me to play with them. They played a lot with each other and friends that came in and out of their lives. I don’t think I would have wanted to play tea party or dolls with my daughter. My kids often played with the simplest of things and let loose their imagination, doing a lot with art and crafts things, making up a lot themselves. What I did was make a great effort to organize their toys and make it all attractive to them. Leave a lovely pile of library picture books on the dining room table, have a whole closet of art supplies in the kitchen. Their play things were all around us.
So I think I spent my play time with them, setting the playing stage, choosing toys that had a lot of playability to them, like those big cardboard blocks, and other wooden blocks, fabric, scarves. I wasn’t concerned about their taking over large spaces and allowed for creations to stay for awhile, until we finally put everything away. But our whole home was a playscape, and they played close by to me all of the time. I was a presence near them, doing my own play stuff, living my day, our day.
Interesting topic. Thanks.
My mother is a player. She’s amazing with the kids always playing with them — all the time — so whenever we come home from visiting my parents there is this big let down because mommy doesn’t play. I don’t know why, but I just can’t get into it. I’m hoping when they are older they’ll want to play things that are more appealing to me!
I love this post.. as I am a non player for sure. I remember clearly my daughter telling me I didn’t ‘play right’.. and i thought, thank GOD! I am out. I HATED my little ponies.. HATED. Now, I wish i was more a part of her play—although still not little People or my little pony–but I do wonder, if I was better about that play if I would be more in tuned with the 10 year old ‘play.’.
Logan, Thank you for this! It helps to explain the difficulty that I sometimes have with parents who bring their children to my Family/Community Drum and Rhythm Circle events.
For years I’ve been trying to figure out how it is that at the vast majority of my gigs, the parents will become as involved in the drumming as the children (and quite often far more so than the children!). My events are billed as “come play” with me and “your family and community”, 100% participatory playing.
But then there are other times (thankfully not many) when the parents simply won’t allow themselves the joy of participation….It seems to cross class bounds…and I couldn’t figure it out. BUT you probably hit the nail on the head. I will now stop feeling guilty when I have to work so very hard to coax the parents into “playing the drums with their children”.
THANKS for the insight!