Yes, I admit it. I don’t play with my kids. In fact, I can’t stand playing with my kids. Pretending to eat plastic food served by Chef Hannah? Nope. Playing princesses and dressing up? Not my thing. And don’t get me started on playing with Barbies.
I feel a little guilty about this, of course. But not that guilty, when I’m honest. And before you raise your eyebrows in horror, let me explain. I do not ignore my two girls just because I am not playing with them. When Becca brings me a pretend glass of juice, I chug it down and go back to doing the real dishes overflowing in my real sink. When Hannah needs help getting into her Cinderella gown, I stop folding the real laundry and velcro that sucker right on. And when Barbie’s shoes fall off–as they always do–I put them back on.
The thing is, I had [and am still having] additional kids for a reason. They play together. In fact, they love to play together, and are [usually] really good at playing together. Hannah and Becca are best buds. They are little girls together and are experts in all things little girls. I’m the expert in all things Mommy.
When I think back on my own childhood, I frankly don’t remember much about my mom. Perhaps that sounds horrible, but I think it is a compliment to my mom’s parenting approach. I don’t ever remember feeling neglected in the slightest, and she was always there whenever we needed her. She fed us and kept us dressed, but other than that, my sisters and I were left to our own devices. In other words, I never expected my mom to be a source of entertainment.
I do remember my mom reading us The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved it so much that I stole it from her and read the whole thing, then pretended I hadn’t so she would keep reading it to us. And so I read to my girls, and I love reading to my girls. I love exploring the world with my girls at places outside our home like the Zoo, the beach, and occasionally [okay, rarely] the grocery store. We do plenty of things together, but we don’t play together.
I guess my approach could be considered “together, yet separate.” The girls do their thing, and I do mine. For example, when Becca is down for her nap, Hannah and I sit down together at the dining room table and “work:” me on the agenting side of things, and Hannah on a worksheet or an educational site like abcmouse.com.
And yet, in every interaction, I truly strive to communicate how much I value them, their desires, and their time. When they approach me, I try my best to stop what I am doing and look them in the eye, sometimes squatting down to their height as we speak (although that’s happening a lot less lately as this belly continues to expand, ha). I don’t ever want them to think I’m too busy for them. I want my girls to know that they mean the world to me, even if they aren’t my entire world. I’m the Mom, not a playmate.
But I will always be there for my girls, and they know it.