Please don’t misinterpret that as me saying I don’t enjoy spending time with my kids because nothing could be further from the truth. They are my everything. I just don’t enjoy playing the games that they like at age 2 and 5. I will look for every excuse under the sun to avoid playing with them because their games make me want to pull my hair out in frustration and boredom.
An average day in the Gabriel household
Have you ever played with a little kid? Their imaginations are out of this world and will leave you astounded but they keep changing the rules and the games often spiral out of control. It goes something like this:
5yo: Let’s play ‘Mummy, baby and big sister’. Mum, you be the big sister and I will be the Mummy.
2yo: I want to be the big sister.
Me: Ok I will be the baby then.
5yo: Ugh fine! Ok darlings, mummy is going to work now.
2yo and Me: Ok bye mum!
5yo: MOOOOOOOM! Babies can’t speak!
Me: Oh sorry! Ok, I’ll be a small baby. Er…what should I do?
5yo: Just sit there.
*game continues around me for 5 minutes*
Me: Erm..I’m not really doing anything here. Can I go?
5yo: You are a bad baby!
5yo: YOU ARE NOT THE BABY!
2yo: I AM A BABY!!! MOOOOOOOM! SHE SAID I’M NOT A BABY!
5yo: YOU’RE NOT A BABY IN THE GAME! BUT YOU’RE ACTING LIKE A BIG BABY!
2yo: I’M NOT A BABY! I’M A BIG GIRL! YOU’RE A BABY! MOOOOOOOOOOM! *starts crying*
5yo: I CAN’T BE A BABY I’M 5! MOOOOOOOOOM! *starts crying*
Me: what the hell just happened….
This parenting gig is not for the faint hearted you guys.
Playing hard to get
My kids, especially my eldest, asks me on a daily basis to play with her and I do, but never enough to satisfy her and I often do other tasks in between, much to her annoyance. It makes me feel a bit sick though when she says at bedtime that she’s sad that I didn’t play more with her during the day and I say that I definitely will tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes along with it’s own set of errands and urgent deadlines and it’s the same story all over again. As much as I dodge playtime, I also dread the day when she stops asking me. This whole situation has been playing on my mind recently and then Hasbro sent out this video for their #SaveTimeForPlaytime campaign:
And it broke me. I see myself there. I’m that parent who is always on my phone, partly because that’s where my work is and partly because it’s an easy form of escapism. I don’t want to be that parent whose kids EXPECT them to say no when asked to play. I don’t want that to be our story. My girls are amazing and they are growing so quickly that it scares me. I was on The Great Equalizer parenting podcast recently and Sam asked what I found was the hardest thing about being a stay at home mum and for me, it is being present. Being with my kids every day for the past 6 years has resulted in me taking them for granted and that isn’t right. They will not always be little and I KNOW that I will be filled with regret if I let these months and years slip through my fingers.
It’s called Child’s Play for a reason
Play is how kids learn. It’s how they work through their feelings and it’s their way of processing concepts that they don’t fully understand. Role play is crucial to their development and understanding of the world around them and you will be surprised at how much they assimilate from your own behaviour. If you want to know how your kids see you, play a game where they pretend to be you. It’s an eye opener.
Basically, children NEED to play. I always joke and say that we had a second kid so that they can entertain each other and to be honest, I’m only half joking. I have been slacking in my duty as a parent by relying too much on their sibling relationship to keep the girls busy. By side stepping this playtime situation, I have robbed both the girls and myself of valuable bonding time. It’s at this young age that I need to cement our relationship.
When a child says ‘will you play with me?’ what they’re really saying is ‘I need you’. It could be ‘I need you to spend time with me because I miss you’ or ‘I need you because I had a rough day and I feel safe with you’ or ‘I need you to show me that I am special because my friend didn’t want to play me with me today’. It could mean a million different things.
If I keep saying No then they will stop seeing me as someone that they can go to when they need something. If I keep saying No then they will stop asking. It’s me who has to change my mindset and find a way that we can all play together. It’s me who has to save time for playtime.
Save Time for Playtime
I mentioned the Hasbro campaign earlier and it’s called Save Time for Playtime. This is about making a pledge to, you guessed it, save time for playtime and there’s tons of ways that you can do this as a parent:
- Shop online instead of at the store
- Watch one less tv programme during the day
- Have a picnic instead for lunch or supper
- Leave your phone/laptop/tablet in another room for an hour so that you’re not tempted to check it
- Don’t bring work home
- Plan a games night with take out
There’s also a bunch of things that kids can pledge to do to help make the time for playing:
- Do their homework without a fuss right after school
- Have a bath without delays or complaints
- Help make their lunch for school the next day
- Take on the feeding duties of the house pet
What I plan on doing is setting aside one hour in the afternoon, after lunch, where the three of us play together. This can be an imagination game or a craft or even storytime but that hour will be Our Time. Kids love stability and they love repetition and if I can keep this up then they will start looking forward to that time together. I want them to know that they have my undivided attention in that time so if there’s anything that is worrying them, it can come out while we play. One hour may not seem like much but it really is about quality over quantity and one hour of being present while playing is worth more than 5 hours of being with them but distracted.
That’s my pledge.
To encourage parents to get into this playtime mentality, Hasbro has started a pledge page and you can click here to get to it. Make your pledge and you could win R1,000 personal shopper voucher AND a Hasbro game of your choice. Hasbro very kindly sent us a board game to kickstart our playtime journey.
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