I don’t feel like it.
Not right now
My [body part] hurts
I can’t right now
When your child asks, can you [insert activity] with me? Is your response, one of the above? I know I’ve said those things in the past, a hundred times. Now, obviously, children could ask this question a hundred times per day, and it’s not realistic, or healthy to play with them EVERY time they ask, but as children age, especially when they are old enough to entertain themselves, I think it’s easy for parents to fall out of habit of playing with their kids.
I noticed this behavior, in my parenting, over the past year. I was saying no, often. How long had this been happening? When the kids were little, ages 1 to 2, I played with them often. Through the divorce, ages 2-4, I played with them a ton, way more than if I hadn’t been divorced, actually. Then after 6, I got busy building a downstairs, and then a garage, and they became older and enjoyed just playing by themselves, and it just stayed that way.
Two weeks ago, we took them to a playground, to play. I threw the ball for the dog a few times, and then went over to take pictures of them playing on the playground. I’m realizing now, what a perfect shield, a camera is, against playing with my kids. I can be there, without being there, so easily with a camera. But, that’s a whole other article, the relationship between parent, camera, and kids. “Nope, can’t play, taking pictures” is the sign that invisibly hangs around my neck, sandwich board style.
After feeling bored with taking pictures, I sat on the bench and watched them play, which truly is a wonderful activity, all on it’s own. Then they asked.
Can you play with us?
I could feel my rolodex of lame excuses fly up in front of me. My conscience fought for a voice, “you shouldplay with them”, the rolodex spun, voice from partner, “come on it’ll be fun”, rolodex slowed down and landed on…
Hours later, we all had played the most amazing game of tag, in, on and around the play structure. Making up rules, like, you can’t touch the ground for more than 5 seconds, and no tag backs for 15 seconds. Driving away from the playground, I thought, “what would life be like, without that game of tag”.
Last friday, we were sitting at the “drop off”, a name affectionately given to the intersection point between their two worlds, the “hand off” between Mom and Dad. A gift, really, the drive to and the waiting at. Built in, quality time, though not always, that we spend before school at least 2 days each week. We generally play a game on the drive, counting colored cars, or types of cars, or eye spy. And then talk, or listen to music, or tickle and annoy one another. Last Friday, exercising my new found power over my lame excuses, I said “yes” and we played Tag. Because one of our rules was staying “near” the car, we ended up just running around and around the car, tagging each other. We would grab someones arm just before being tagged which would pass it along to the grabbed person. We would accidentally run into the mirrors, or slip near the trunk, and get tagged.
We laughed, out loud, running, for 15 minutes. One of my favorite drop offs ever.
In life, if you’re asked to play, say yes.