I read a quote tonight by Lawrence Cohen of Playful Parenting that struck a cord. It read “Children don’t say ‘I had a hard day can we talk?’ They say ‘Will you play with me?’ ” I can’t count the number of times my four year old inquires this same thing of me. “Mommy, will you play with me?” “Mommy can we play a game?” “Mommy, now can we play?”
Sarah, in particular, will look at me with her beautiful, all encompassing brown eyes. A look that only a 3 week puppy can replicate. How cold-hearted I must be to dismiss the pleadings of my princess. And yet, too often my response is, “Not right now sweetie.” “Mommy’s doing work.” “I can’t.” “I need to feed brother, or clean or cook dinner” and any number of excuses. The most used response: “Yes sweetie, after I [do XVY]” but then I don’t.
“Children don’t say ‘I had a hard day can we talk?’ They say ‘Will you play with me?’ ” The words sting. It won’t be long before lil’ miss doesn’t want to play with me anymore. Is what I’m doing really that important? More than half the time I would say no, it isn’t that important and yet I don’t stop to heed the invitations of my son or daughter.
Now before you go and say oh no not another “the dishes can wait…savor the moment” article, keep reading and please resist the urge to throat-punch me.
There is a time and place. Kids need to learn that we are there for them and they are of upmost importance. At the same time, they need to learn that the world does not revolve around them and mommy and daddy have responsibilities to be met. It’s a fine line to walk that I am still trying to navigate. If I were a tight rope walker I’d be dead by now.
What I feel (and again take this with a grain of salt) is that we take the time to play, even if all we can devote is 5 minutes away from the task at hand. Of course you can always spend more time. And when we do play with them and notice the disaster that is their bedroom, fight the temptation to stop and clean things up. I know. I know. Easier said than done. Really I’m totally guilty of this. I’ll go upstairs with the intention to play, the next thing I know I am cleaning and reorganizing the play room, fixing the beds, putting away clothes, then yelling at my daughter for hiding the laundry I asked her to put away the day before. It’s not easy but we need to give our littles our undecided attention. If not, how can we expect them to ignore the waves crashing around them and focus in the future. Not too mention, one-on-one interaction, conversations and eye contact develop a feeling of self worth and identity. I read it somewhere on a blog before so it must be true. *Wink
If in that moment you are unable to stop, don’t beat yourself up over it later at night when you lay in bed and replay all the parenting fails you made that day. Come on, you know you do it too. Instead, explain to Adam or Lindsay what you are doing (in terms they understand) and that you love them and want to play but must first finish the task at hand because XYZ. Instead of feeling bad for putting them on the back burner, smile because you are teaching them responsibility and follow through.
If I may share one last thing, it is that maybe those moments of play are more than simple bonding between parent and child. Could it be that they are life’s way of teaching us, the adult? Children are pure, they haven’t been corrupted by the world. Not many years ago they themselves were in heaven. During that time of play, try to identify what you can learn from them. What beautiful gem can you glean from them? I know that’s what I’m going to be working on this week.
Good luck to you.