Playing with my kids vs. them playing and me just being around is an ongoing gray area for me as a parent. And this line has been exacerbated since I’ve been home full-time because, well, I spend more time with them. I’ve never been the kind of parent who shepherds my kids from one activity to the next. First, that is way too expensive. Second, I think it’s unhealthy. I think it sends them the message that they can’t be happy or entertained unless they are anywhere but home. And I think it sends the message that I don’t want to play with them. I’d rather pay someone else to do it. And most importantly, we all know that kids learn the most through play, so what’s wrong with just staying home and playing.
Now, also don’t get me wrong. DD1 goes to soccer, she’s going to soon start swimming lessons, we take occasional classes at the zoo or holiday themed classes through the county. But I think it’s really important to balance it with lots of time to just chill out at home.
So how do we spend that time chilling out at home? Here’s where I am constantly struggling. I like to play, sometimes. I like to play outside, I like to kick the ball around with them, push them on the swings, play hide-n-seek. I like to read stories, color, have dance parties or play board games. I don’t really like playing with Little People, I won’t allow Barbies in my house for as long as I can get away with it, I can’t fit in the princess gear for dress-up, and I really hate dressing dolls. I’m sure a shadow of my former self used to love these things. But I just don’t anymore. So there’s that line again. That line between wanting to engage my kids and wanting them to just do it themselves. And clearly it’s not just because I want them to be independent. It’s also because sometimes I just don’t want to participate. Is anyone else with me here?
Finding that line between being involved and interested but also encouraging independence is not easy for me. I think it also depends on the child. I marvel over parents who tell me about how their 2-year-old plays independently. My 4.5 year old not long ago reached the point where she’d play independently but prior to that, it was like pulling teeth. And now she lasers in on my weak moments. She deliberately picks the times when her younger and physically insane sister is awake, to then ask and beg me to read her the 50 page Aristocats book her Grandma sent her home with. We all know I can’t sit down on the sofa and read a 50 page story with a 17 month-old roaming aimlessly around the house searching only for Chlorox to swallow, steep stairs to jump off or toilets to stuff with her dad’s current Journal of Accountancy (though I’d pick that one over my In Touch as well).
So, I read this guest entry in the Motherlode blog, with much interest. I’m not sure what I am looking for. I don’t really care about scientific studies or data that shows the impact of certain kinds of play on kids because it just confuses me or causes me to start second guessing. Do I really need to be wasting my time taking note of how many hours per week I spend playing with vs. playing next too my kids? No. Plus who has the time. I think I enjoyed the piece because it just affirmed what I’m doing and how I’m feeling.
Maybe some people are loathe to admit they don’t love to play, or they don’t love certain kinds of play. I’m not that person. We all can’t love all things that our children do. I suppose then we’d just be creating self-involved monsters.
Bottom line, as I struggle to do my own thing and encourage independent play, I’m glad to know I’m not alone.